By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
LEBANON – Lebanon High football coach Chris Childs believes his 5-0 team needs two more victories to guarantee itself an NHIAA Division II playoff berth. After yet another Raiders rout Friday, this one a 41-0 shellacking of visiting Souhegan, it’s hard to imagine postseason entry being any sort of problem for the boys in maroon and gold.
“I know seven wins will get you in for sure,” Childs said after his squad built a 28-0 halftime lead and outgained the Sabers, 272 yards to 79 before the break. “Six and three will be iffy, so we need to get a couple more.”
The East and West division winners earn automatic playoff entries and Lebanon is atop the West with Hanover, 4-0 entering a Saturday visit to 2-2 Sanborn, and a leg up on 4-1 Milford. The Raiders and Marauders play at Merriman-Branch field on Oct. 22.
“We buckled down and cleaned up the penalties we’d been getting in prior weeks,” Childs said. “I think the guys up front allowed us to run the football.”
Lebanon quarterback Jack Stone completed 2 of 8 passes for 24 yards and a 2-yard touchdown to Nyeoti Punni and had two tosses intercepted. The senior ran 11 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. C.J. Childs carried 14 times for 48 yards and a touchdown and Punni rushed 12 times for 81 yards and a score.
Not to be outdone, Cole Shambo scurried and pounded his way for 66 yards and two touchdowns in 16 carries, showing improved offense abilities after standing out mostly as a linebacker last fall.
“He’s overshadowed sometimes and he shouldn’t be, because he’s a great football player,” Childs said of a Hartland resident who transferred from Hartford before last season. “He does a lot of the dirty work for us, blocking and setting the edge. Teams concentrate on Nyeoti or Jack or C.J. and all of a sudden Cole takes off.
“He does a lot of good things that don’t show up in the stats. He likes to run inside, so when people overload to the outside to take our speed away, he’s a great opposite to use.”
Souhegan fell to 2-3. Its freshman quarterback, Romy Jain, displayed a smooth release and poise under near-constant pressure. He completed 8 of 28 pass attempts and two of them were intercepted by Mason Arado and Tanner Ames.
Lebanon senior defensive lineman Cameron Davio was all over the signal-caller, causing a fumble and recovering two others. Jain was tackled for a loss seven times and finished with minus-30 yards rushing. His team had minus-25 yards rushing in 14 carries.
Davio played with one hand wrapped into a club after suffering a dislocated finger and a torn ligament and tendon during last week’s game. Number 77 said he’ll undergo surgery this week but will wear a cast and doesn’t expect to miss the Raiders’ upcoming clash at Bow.
Staying healthy might be Lebanon’s biggest challenge the rest of the way. Stone rarely steps out of bounds to avoid a hit while carrying the ball, but his team’s dream of a state title is risked every time he absorbs a collision. The Raiders’ 2020 season was ended short of the division semifinals after exposure to a Bow player later found to have the Covid-19 virus forced quarantine.
“Injuries and Covid are the two things that worry me,” Childs said. “That, and that we don’t get a big head. We have to keep the kids grounded and worry about the next game, not multiple games.”
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