Lebanon, Stevens, Newport ready for playoff matchups on the gridiron

  • “This is a business trip,” Lebanon Football Coach Chris Childs tells his team at the close of practice in Lebanon, N.H., Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, about Saturday’s quarterfinal game with Bow and encouraging them to rest well overnight. “Your tank is on E when you leave that field tomorrow.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon running back Cole Shambo, center, gives teammate Justin DeCarlo, left, trouble for an overthrown pass during practice in Lebanon, N.H., Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon quarterback Jackson Stone, left, fakes a handoff to teammate C.J. Childs during their practice in Lebanon, N.H., Friday, Nov. 6, 2020 ahead of a Saturday quarterfinal with Bow. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2020 11:26:04 PM
Modified: 11/6/2020 11:25:49 PM

The road to the NHIAA Division II, III and IV championship games continue Saturday, and three Upper Valley squads are still in the hunt for hardware. Lebanon visits Bow, Stevens travels to Winnisquam, and Newport hosts Fall Mountain.

Check out the full preview of these games below:

Lebanon (5-0) at Bow (4-0), Saturday, 10 a.m.

Last meeting: Bow bested Lebanon, 40-7, on Oct. 28, 2017.

What’s at stake: The Raiders travel to Bow with a berth in the D-II semifinals against either Kennett or Plymouth up for grabs. The Falcons are a perennial D-II contender. They were the No. 1 seed in the postseason a year ago and also made the state finals in 2016 and 2017.

The season has been a little off for Bow, which has had two games canceled and a three-week layoff before last week’s 20-6 victory over Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton in the prelims. But coach Paul Cohen is in his 20th season and will have his team ready.

Lebanon moved back to D-II this season after nearly winning last season’s D-III championship. The Raiders haven’t skipped a beat with the bump up, however, allowing only 20 points defensively.

They’ve played Hanover twice, the only D-II team on the schedule, but also D-I Keene. Lebanon didn’t concede a single point in any of those three contests.

Bottom line: Bow has a very physical defense led by linemen Cooper Larrabbee, Ryan Nichols and Shaun Lover, but the trio will have to find a way to slow down Lebanon quarterback Jack Stone, who has thrown and rushed for five touchdowns.

If they do, Stone will turn to his rushing attack led by Cole Shambo (three rushing TDs), Nyeoti Punni Jr. (three rushing TDs) and C.J. Childs (two rushing TDs). Trying to get the ball to wideout Calvin Bates (two receiving TDs) will also be a priority.

The Raiders will have a tall task on defense against Bow’s power-rushing attack. Andrew Robbins is the bruiser back for the Falcons, but Andrew Bliss brings the one-two punch with his speed if he can turn the corner.

“It’s do or die; you win or go home,” Lebanon coach Chris Childs said. “They’re physical up front. They’re going to play their 4-4 defense, and we’re going to have to execute and move some bodies up front.”

Stevens (2-3) at Winnisquam (1-2), Saturday, 1 p.m.

Last meeting: The programs haven’t met on the gridiron in more than 15 seasons.

What’s at stake: Paul Silva on a playoff run in November is just the accepted norm these days. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be impressed.

The Stevens coach watched his team pull off a 22-21 double-overtime win over Laconia a week ago. And now the Cards are in the D-III semifinals for the fifth consecutive season.

The only thing that stands between Silva and his first championship game bid since 2016? The Winnisquam Bears, who won back-to-back titles in D-IV before jumping up to D-III this season.

The winner of Saturday’s game meets Monadnock or Pelham in next week’s championship.

Bottom line: The Bears have played only three games all season. They shut out Laconia in Week 1 but were then pummeled by Monadnock, 36-6, on Oct. 24. That said, the playoff experience from years past helps. They haven’t played a game since that loss to Monadnock, but they do have an all-state-caliber quarterback in Phil Nichols.

“He has a big arm,” Silva said of Nichols. “He anticipates well. He puts the ball where it needs to be. But the other thing that scares me is his running ability. He’s very athletic, he has good speed and he has plenty of moves.”

The key for Stevens will be holding onto the ball. Silva’s starting to see his offense click behind quarterback Owen Taylor and running back Luke Forrest, but limiting turnovers will keep the Cards competitive.

Fall Mountain (2-3) at Newport (5-1), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Newport defeated Fall Mountain, 46-0, at home on Oct. 10.

What’s at stake: Second-year Newport coach John Proper is looking to bring the program to its first championship game appearance since 2015. For a football-hungry town, five years has felt like a long time.

The Tigers have ripped through their competition in their return to D-IV; their only loss was to Lebanon, 7-6, on Oct. 2. The Wildcats, meanwhile, made last season’s D-IV championship game, where they lost to Winnisquam, 20-0.

Newport or Fall Mountain will meet Somersworth or Raymond in the championship game next Saturday.

Bottom line: Fall Mountain was without running back Tyler Swain in the first meeting with Newport. A week ago, he rushed for four touchdowns and also tallied four sacks as the Wildcats defeated Franklin, 40-8.

The Wildcats still have to stop Newport, and that won’t be easy.

The Tigers have outscored opponents, 199-37. Their rushing attack of Jagger Lovely and Josh Sharron has resulted in 11 TDs and 1,011 yards. Plus quarterback Marius Edwards can run the ball, setting up some great play action passes.

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.

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