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Revenge Tour: Stevens Has a History of Delivering Payback in Playoffs

  • Tucker Derosier, left, and Owen Derosier, right, listen to Stevens football coach Paul Silva during practice at Barnes Park in Claremont, N.H., Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Cardinals will play a state semifinal game with Campbell on Saturday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Stevens Head Coach Paul Silva talks to his defense during practice at Barnes Park in Claremont, N.H., Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 as they prepare for their semifinal game with Campbell on Saturday. (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 Correspondent
Friday, November 09, 2018

Claremont — There’s a pattern here. Consider what the Stevens High football team has done in recent postseason games:

■In 2016, on the way to the NHIAA Division III championship, Stevens beat Monadnock in the semifinals and InterLakes in the championship game — two teams that defeated the Cardinals during the regular season.

■In 2017, after losing to Somersworth during the regular season, the Cardinals downed the Hilltoppers in the first round of the playoffs.

■This fall, Stevens was hammered by Trinity, 39-6, at home, then went on the road last week to beat the Pioneers in a quarterfinal game, 7-0.

Can the trend continue today in the Division III semifinals, when the Cardinals go to Campbell to take on a Cougars team that was not on the regular season schedule, but downed the Cardinals 33-0 last year in the semifinals?

Stevens coach Paul Silva certainly likes his team’s chances, and he knows that the best way to keep the trend rolling is preparation. Not only has Silva watched the tapes of all the Campbell games, but he thinks spotting weaknesses and exploiting them is the key.

“Like us, they like to run the ball, and we have to make the proper adjustments,” he said. “I like our chances. I think we believe as a team we can play with anybody in the division.”

To accomplish this task, however, the Cardinals know they will have to do something about Keegan Mills, who rushed for three touchdowns and 256 yards in Campbell’s win over Laconia in last weekend’s quarterfinals.

“They run a lot of misdirection stuff off the direct snap,” Silva said. “We have to get ready for that.”

Getting ready is something the Cardinals always have done. Silva thinks in football, unlike other sports, you have time to fix things up.

“There is time, sometimes weeks, to prepare, to correct things and hope the intangibles go your way,” Silva said, as he cited the team’s seven turnovers in the 2016 regular-season loss to InterLakes before cleaning everything up in the championship game.

Last week’s win over Trinity was considered a stunner, but the statistics were ever more shocking, as the Pioneers mustered only 78 yards of total offense. They were 0-for-9 in passing and John Thibault, the team’s top rusher and transfer from Newport High, was held to 49 yards on 19 carries.

Stevens, meanwhile, got 100 yards rushing from quarterback Quentin Bicknell, who added 11 tackles from his linebacker position. Keaghan McAllister scored the game’s only TD and had 83 yards from scrimmage to put him over 1,000 yards for the season.

“I think the kids really believed in themselves for this game, they really came together as a unit,” Silva said. “Like always, it took all 35 players and the coaches, who are sometimes overlooked to make this happen. Billy (Gobin, defensive coordinator) had a great game plan, and I made sure I congratulated the junior varsity players, who spent the week being the scout team. It took everybody.”

It has been an up-and-down season for the Cardinals, who won their first five games before they lost their final four regular season games. The biggest concern all year was the line, which lost 2017 stalwarts Nick Stone, Aiden Cahill and Brendan Bean to graduation.

“We’ve seen marked improvement in the line,” Silva said of linemen Phil Mason, Noah Sandanato. Hunter Paradis, Josh Stithen and others, who played a key role in pitching a shutout at Gill Stadium last week.

“I think this team has been better than everybody thought,” assistant coach Matt Bean said. “And I don’t think we are through surprising people.”

Game time on Saturday is 1 p.m.

“We’ve got a few new wrinkles for them,” Silva said.