By Tris Wykes

HANOVER – The words of Lebanon High football coach Chris Childs drifted across Merriman-Branch Field before Friday night’s NHIAA Division II meeting with arch-rival Hanover. 

“Deliver the blow,” the 14th-year bench boss told his assembled players. “Don’t receive the blow. Deliver it. Hard.”

Lebanon High’s Cole Shambo, right, faces Hanover tacklers Ben Williams (3), Moe Kado (5) and Colin Pierce (18).

Message received, for the Raiders took the physical initiative all evening, stomping to a 41-0 victory before about 30 visible fans. Each Marauders player was allowed two entrants from his immediate family. All others were prohibited because of Covid-19 virus concerns, although rustling in the surrounding woods spoke to unseen viewers.

“It’s a great statement for our kids,” Childs said. “There’s been a lot of talk about us only playing Upper Valley teams, so it’s great to come up here and beat a 4-0 Hanover team. We just pushed them around up front all night and that was the difference.”

Hanover coach Sam Cavallaro was inclined to give his team Saturday off, but upon finishing his postgame speech, he discovered senior lineman Ben Wagner thought otherwise. 

“He told everyone he wanted them back here for practice by 8:30 (a.m.),” Cavallaro said. “He’s a great leader and this is a team that wants to do well and wants to bounce back.”

The division playoffs begin next week but matchups won’t be known until Saturday night. There’s a play-in game to decide the region’s fourth and final entrant and Childs and Cavallaro weren’t sure if seeding would be done by record or out of the proverbial hat. It’s possible Hanover and Lebanon could meet again for their next game.

“It seems hard not to go by record after you decided who’s going to be in the play-in game by record,” Childs said, referring to a matchup between Hillsboro-Deering and John Stark. “How do you go away from that? But it will probably be done randomly.”

Lebanon High’s Jack Stone (12) eludes Hanover’s Patrick Elder (50) and Brendan Logan (85) en route to an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Hanover received the game’s opening kickoff but went three-and-out. Lebanon drove 82 yards in seven plays, the last a 20-yard Jack Stone touchdown run. The quarterback caught almost everyone off guard when he scooped up a C.J. Childs fumble in the backfield and headed in the opposite direction. Tanner Ames kicked the first of his four extra points for a 7-0 lead in the fourth minute.

The Marauders ran three more plays before booting again. This time, Lebanon needed only five snaps to cover 57 yards and scored on a 6-yard run by Hartford transfer Cole Shambo. The visitors led, 14-0, after six minutes and that score held into the second half. 

“To come out of the gate and put them back on their heels and push then around, it was a big advantage for us,” Chris Childs said.

Lebanon drove 76 yards in nine plays to begin the third quarter, Childs running for a 4-yard touchdown five minutes after intermission. Hanover punted for the fifth time two minutes later and Stone dodged two tacklers before returning the ball 82 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead.

The Raiders’ final two touchdowns occurred when Shambo fought 22 yards on a brilliant, bumper-car run up the right sideline and Nyeoti Punni ran 5 yards to paydirt. Noah Mekus had an extra-point try blocked after Shambo’s score and was good on the attempt after Punni’s points.

Lebanon High’s Connor Brown (69) and Cole Shambo (22), sit with twins Brody (arms up) and Blake LaHaye. The youngsters are the sons of Raiders assistant coach Brandon LaHaye.

Lebanon rushed for 299 yards while holding Hanover to 104. Stone carried six times for 59 yards and a touchdown and completed 1 of 2 passes for 36 yards. Punni ran 11 times for 78 yards and a score. Shambo had 103 yards and a touchdown in 13 carries and C.J. Childs took six handoffs and produced 26 yards and a touchdown.

“The last few weeks we thought our backs were blocking but looking for the big hit, and that wasn’t getting it done,” Chris Childs said. “We’ve emphasized getting the right angle and that’s what they did tonight.”

Hanover’s Seamus Murphy carried 16 times for 85 yards and Ben Williams ran 14 times for 61 yards. Colin Pierce completed 1 of 7 passes and had a toss picked off by Justin DeCarlo. The Raiders piled up four sacks for nearly 50 yards.

“We do a great job of bringing pressure and try to make the quarterback uncomfortable,” said Childs, who earned his first shutout victory over Hanover as a coach. “We bring a lot of heat and they didn’t have time to throw tonight.”

Cavallaro praised Lebanon linebackers C.J. Childs, Shambo and DeCarlo, noting that any play needing time to develop stood almost no chance. 

“I can’t remember a team with such fast linebackers,” said the sixth-year Hanover coach, previously a longtime assistant. “They’re football smart and they know their keys and they were flying out there. Then they walked their safety (Stone) up towards the line and even when our runners got to the second level, he was cutting them down.”

Lebanon High’s Nyeoti Punni fights to escape the clutches of Hanover’s Ben Wagner. Marauders Connor Chambers (66), Hank Trimble (35) and Gabriel Schroeder (24) close in.

The Raiders got raucous after the final whistle, then headed towards their waiting bus in eerie silence. 

“We talked about not having fans all week but tried to push it aside and come in here as a family,” Childs said of the ban on visiting spectators. 

“We can’t control the outside stuff but we can control what we do in the football game. It would have been nice to have people here to watch and celebrate with us, for sure, but hopefully they can see us play again soon.”

Notes: The Marauders and Raiders met annually for decades but didn’t clash the last two seasons because of scheduling issues related to different divisional assignments. The “Principals Cup” trophy, awarded to the rivalry’s yearly winner and last claimed by Hanover in 2017, was not in evidence Friday… Lebanon committed six penalties for 80 yards while Hanover drew five fouls for 40 yards… The Raiders have posted back-to-back shutouts and haven’t surrendered an offensive touchdown since their opener against Stevens. Lebanon, which reached the Division III title game last autumn, has outscored its opponents, 147-20, this year.

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Hanover High ball carrier Ben Williams (3) is tackled by Lebanon’s Calvin Bates.