Div. III: Bow back rises to occasion
BOW — There is nothing Bow High School's Matt Ehrenberg would like more than to send his good friend and fellow running back Alex Reitze off with an NHIAA Division III football championship.
"That would be fantastic," Ehrenberg, a junior, said of Reitze, a senior. "That's what we are all trying to do."
A season that began almost a year ago with winter conditioning culminates Saturday on the home field of the Falcons, the first football title game ever held in Bow. The division's top seed and owner of a 9-1 record, Bow hosts No. 2 Stevens High of Claremont (8-2) at 1 p.m.
The Falcons have won nine straight — including a 28-14 victory at Stevens on Sept. 21 — since a season-opening loss to Pelham, and Ehrenberg is one of the major reasons for their success.
"He's been our go-to guy on the offense since Week 3," said Bow coach Paul Cohen. "Matt is a potent force, someone the other team has to stop.
"Fortunately no one has stopped him yet."
Ehrenberg, has gained 1,382 yards this year, becoming the first Bow player to surpass 1,000. He's also scored 22 touchdowns, including six in a 43-23 victory over Bishop Brady of Concord and four last week in a 42-0 semifinal rout of Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, a cooperative team of players from two Lakes Region schools.
"He's very elusive. He can run at different speeds, and he's fast in the open field," said Bow's athletics director, Jim Kaufman. "Most of all, he's really competitive."
Ehrenberg started the season as the Falcons' No. 2 back, behind Reitze, but when the senior was felled by illness — coincidentally in that Week 3 victory over Stevens — the junior stepped in and stepped up his game.
"I credit the offensive line," said Ehrenberg. "They're big and powerful. They really move people back. It makes my job much easier."
Cohen didn't know what he had in Ehrenberg when the season began, the coach said. As a sophomore, Ehrenberg has spent most of his time at defensive back.
"Matt was a diamond in the rough," Cohen said. "We saw some natural ability before, but we wondered what he could do over a season."
Ehrenberg has been so potent on offense, his contributions at safety and on special teams sometimes get overlooked.
But not by Cohen.
"Matt is our field general on defense, commanding everyone in front of him," Cohen said. "We adjusted our defense to facilitate Matt's role."
The adjustment has worked. Bow's average of 8.4 points allowed per game is the best in the entire state, and the Falcons have recorded four shutouts, including two in the last three games.
On special teams, Ehrenberg is Bow's top punt returner and part of a rotation of kick-off returners. He almost never leaves the field.
Cohen expects Stevens to focus on stopping Ehrenberg, but Ehrenberg said such a strategy would only lead to someone else producing for the Falcons.
"We can give the ball to anyone we want. We're still going to put points on the board," he said.
Bow certainly did that in its first meeting with Stevens, but, said Cohen, "Both teams have improved greatly since we played last."
Like the Falcons, the Cardinals are riding a significant winning streak, having prevailed in seven straight games since back-to-back losses to Campbell of Litchfield (21-20) and Bow.
Before last Saturday's 13-0 shutout of the Epping/Newmarket cooperative team in the semifinals, Stevens had allowed just six points in each of its previous four games.
On Saturday, it would appear, putting points on the board will be a major challenge for both Division III teams.