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NHIAA Football Championships Notebook: Change of pace works for Campbell

By ROGER BROWN and JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 18. 2017 9:39PM
Campbell's Ryan Yanuszewski takes out the legs of Monadnock's Chandler Matson during the Division III football finals at UNH in Durham on Saturday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

DURHAM - Through three quarters of Saturday's Division III championship game, Campbell High School hadn't had much luck running the football.

The second-seeded Cougars (11-0) entered the game's final 12 minutes with 31 yards rushing on 28 carries and trailed top-seeded Monadnock by two points. That's when the Campbell coaching staff decided it had to do something different on offense.

Rather than continue to pound the ball between the tackles, Campbell spread the field and left Keegan Mills alone in the backfield. Mills completed both of his pass attempts and carried the ball four times on a seven-play, 68-yard drive that capped the scoring in Campbell's 12-8 victory.

Most of Campbell's 54 yards rushing on its second scoring drive came on the perimeter, including Mills' 33-yard TD run with 6:39 to play.

"When we were running our normal single-wing stuff we couldn't get to the edge, so we just decided to spread the field," Campbell coach Greg Gush said. "Keegan can run and also throw the ball. He's a problem when he's back there by himself, so when we spread them out there's less guys in the box. When he was running the ball we were able to get some good perimeter blocking and some creases. All in all it was a pretty good recipe."

Mills rushed for a team-high 76 yards and scored two touchdowns on 17 carries in the victory. He also completed three of his four pass attempts for 35 yards. His biggest contribution may have come on defense, however. Mills recorded a game-high 18 tackles.

"Second-half is our time to shine," Mills said. "We changed our offense and kept running, running and running. Our goal from the beginning was to keep it close and finish in the fourth quarter, and that's exactly what we did."

Mills, a sophomore, finished the season with 1,499 yards rushing on 149 attempts, scored 18 touchdowns and had a team-high 81 tackles.

"On both sides of the ball he's a game-changer," Gush said. "Tough. He's a football player's football player. He's not showy. He just comes and plays football."

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THE BALANCE within Plymouth High's offense in Saturday's D-II title game triumph was far from a surprise. A relatively run-happy team in its 2016 title run, the Bobcats served themselves well both through the air and on the ground throughout their perfect 11-0 run in 2017.

However, Saturday's passing effort appeared to be unique in that three completions of at least 49 yards made up most of Plymouth quarterback Ben Olmstead's 161 yards. Jordan Docen caught two of those passes for 102 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown, while Nolan Farina's 59-yard TD catch accounted for the third long ball.

All three big pass plays looked identical to one another. Somehow the Bobcats managed shoot a receiver up the middle of the field for Olmstead to hit in stride. Farina's TD catch and a 49-yard gain by Docen came without a defender in sight while Docen's TD drew single-man coverage.

"We run a play a lot where (the receivers) just switch," Plymouth coach Chris Sanborn said. "They put (Jack Corriveau) at middle safety to come downhill and play the run. St. Thomas did the same thing last week . and we said they might do that today. Sure enough, they tried to do the same thing."

Sanborn added that the same looks were available in the semifinal game against St. Thomas a week prior.

"We just couldn't throw to save our lives," Sanborn said. "Ben had a rough day in some tough weather and we couldn't do it. We left open touchdowns."

The plays generated open looks on Saturday, but Olmstead had to execute. There was no hangover from the shortcomings in the semifinal, as the senior redeemed himself nicely with crisp, composed passes.

"Ben had a rough time and he was pretty disappointed," Sanborn said. "He's a top-quality kid. Saw his struggles last week and he came to play today. That's what high school kids are about. They're just 17-18 year-old kids out there."

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EVAN WELCH made an indelible mark for Winnacunnet of Hampton in Saturday's 41-21 win.

Of the 35 points the Warriors scored in the first half against Pinkerton, Welch contributed 18 on a trio of touchdowns. In fact, Welch's first three catches went for touchdowns.

Two of the three touchdowns by Welch, who brought 22 catches for 427 yards into Saturday, came by way of sheer athleticism.

After hauling in a 13-yard score from quarterback Pat MacDougall to open Winnacunnet's scoring, Welch then snared a 10-yard TD on a dive through the end zone. The senior's third TD came on a 13-yard fade to the right corner of the end zone, where Welch hauled in the catch over his shoulder while managing to keep both feet in bounds.

If the touchdowns weren't enough, Welch also added crucial work at cornerback as well. Winnacunnet ended Pinkerton's red zone threat during the closing minutes of the first half with Welch providing a pass breakup on a would-be touchdown.

rbrown@unionleader.com and jduball@unionleader.com


NHIAA

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