By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
HANOVER – You can’t stop Lebanon High’s Jack Stone on a football field. You can only hope to contain him.
Hanover, like every other team the Raiders have played the past two seasons, couldn’t do either, falling, 42-0, in the Principals Cup rivalry game Friday at Merriman-Branch Field.
Lebanon has beaten Hanover three times during the past year by a combined 120-0. The neighbors could conceivably meet again in the upcoming NHIAA Division II playoffs.
Stone, a wiry, 6-foot-3 quarterback and safety with 4.45-second speed in the 40-yard dash, ran for 195 yards and four touchdowns in nine carries, sprinting for scoring runs of 68, 70 and 37 yards and bulling through the line for a 1-yard strike.
The senior, who’s being recruited by Holy Cross and the University of New Hampshire, but who was turned down by local Dartmouth College, also ran for a 2-point conversion as Lebanon improved to 7-0 and dropped the Marauders to 5-3.
Stone “was pretty focused at practice this week so I knew he was going to have a big day,” said Lebanon coach Chris Childs, whose team hosts Hillsboro-Deering-Hopkinton (2-4) next week in the teams’ regular-season finale. “He put us on his back in the first half.”
Hanover coach Sam Cavallaro, a longtime admirer of Stone’s, said there was no way his team could simulate facing No. 12 in practice.
“That’s a good team and we only have three seniors on our defense,” Cavallaro said. “All season we’ve been trying to get our kids to come up and tackle against better teams and that experience was great for us tonight. They have to get used to that kind of speed, because we haven’t seen it often.”
The Raiders also received 165 yards and two touchdowns from Nyetoi Punni, who carried 14 times and scored on runs of 9 and 73 yards, the latter against a Hanover defense peppered with reserves. Teammate C.J. Childs rushed 11 times for 72 yards and the visitors’ lone pass attempt resulted in Brendan Logan’s interception of a wild heave by Stone while he was being taken down.
Hanover trailed only 13-0 at intermission but Logan fumbled away the second half kickoff and Lebanon scored three plays later.
The Marauders’ next possession lasted only four plays before quarterback Roger Lucas pitched the ball into empty space and Raiders lineman Connor Brown recovered. Three plays later, Stone scored his fourth touchdown and Tanner Ames booted the third of his five extra points for a 28-0 lead four minutes into the third quarter.
“You put pressure on people and all of a sudden, the ball pops out,” said Childs, whose squad had 60 yards in penalties, including three personal fouls. “The kids played hard and I’m proud of them because this is a big rivalry game and there was some emotional stuff.”
Said Cavallaro: “Our kids were really upbeat at halftime and ready to fight and then those two turnovers killed us. But give Lebanon credit; they caused them. If you make a mistake, they’ll capitalize.”
The game was filled with stupefying collisions that frequently left players sprawled and slow to rise. The crack of helmets and shoulder pads was constant and grunts, groans and curses could be heard from the sidelines on almost every play.
Emotions began to peak late in the third quarter when Hanover lineman Patrick Elder suffered a leg injury that left him writhing in agony. The junior was carried off the field, but his tremendous pain didn’t abate and he was carted away into the darkness, lying cradled in the arms of trainer Cassie Lapple.
Elder is the son of former Marauders lineman Glenn Elder and Lebanon High teacher Torey Elder. Because there was no junior high football team in Hanover when Patrick Elder was that age, he played with Lebanon’s program and is widely known among the Raiders student body. His suffering jarred many in attendance.
“It feels like he’s one of my kids and I’m praying that it’s nothing major and he can come back and finish the year,” Chris Childs said.
Cavallaro called the injury “heartbreaking” and said Patrick Elder was playing hard and well before his injury and told the coach he felt he’d let his team down by being hurt.
Hanover began placing backups in the game after it surrendered Punni’s first touchdown and fell behind, 35-0, with 9 minutes, 29 seconds to play. A 35-point deficit in the second half triggers a running clock, football’s version of a mercy rule. Childs didn’t send significant numbers of reserves onto the field until fewer than three minutes remained.
An angry Cavallaro shouted across the field at his Raiders counterpart, giving Childs a sarcastic thumbs-up after Punni blasted up the middle for his second score.
“If I’m up, 35-0, with a running clock, my JV is going in,” Cavallaro said. “Period. I think most teams would do that. To me, the game was in hand and I don’t know what (Childs) was thinking.”
Said Childs: “We were running the football with four minutes left. It’s tough to put our young kids in (during) that situation. I was trying to kill the clock with a dive play and Nyeoti busted it. It is what it is.”
Hanover received 101 yards in 13 carries from senior Seamus Murphy, whose freshman brother, Keegan, stepped in to play defensively for senior Josh Bucci, who’s out with a broken finger. Senior Colin Pierce, previously the Marauders’ quarterback, has moved to tight end to replace Bucci on offense.
Jeffery Vidou rushed nine times for 94 yards and Lucas completed 3 of 8 pass attempts for 34 yards and had two throws intercepted. He was sacked four times.
“I asked our captains what they had to say after the game and they told our guys that we have to come back Monday ready for a huge game next week,” said Cavallaro, whose team visits Hollis-Brookline (2-6). “They’re already in that mindset and they believe in themselves.”
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