Salem Blue Devils Football '14

Toledo's brilliant day helps Lawrence shock Salem

LAWRENCE — In his wildest, most fantastic dreams, Lawrence’s Jacob Toledo never could have imagined his high school football career would end so perfectly.

“Not at all,” Toledo said with a smile from ear to ear. “No way,”

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Football, 11/26/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Salem wins sets up Londonderry showdown

NASHUA — One week before a regular-season showdown against Londonderry with a playoff spot up for grabs, it would have been easy for Salem to overlook a two-win Nashua North squad.

Especially when a junior running back will be taking his first snaps as a varsity signal caller.

While last night's victory might not have been the Blue Devils' prettiest performance of a stellar season, Salem's 12-7 win got the job done.

Nick Shumski proved more than capable of getting the job done, one night after being told he'd be subbing under center for starter John Cerretani, who was not in uniform because of a coach's decision.

Shumski rebounded from an interception on his first throw, completing four of his remaining five passes. Each completion went to Kenny Calabrese, none bigger than his leaping 28-yard reception at the Titan 1, setting up Johnny Bartose's clinching touchdown with 8:07 remaining in the game.

"I found out (Thursday) before practice," said Shumski, who's only previous QB experience this year was the first half of the first junior varsity game. "One of my teammates told me. I thought he was messing with me at first, but it turned out to be the real deal.

"I just thought it was a big opportunity right now. I had to play my best and help my team out. Everyone is stressing out about Londonderry, but we knew we had to get this one first"

The inexperienced Shumski was helped significantly by Charles Sibanda, who led a balanced rushing attack with 118 yards and the game's initial touchdown midway through the third quarter.

"Nick's a great football player," Salem coach Rob Pike said. "We had full confidence in him. He did fine. We just had a lot of other issues we have to take care of."

Those issues would be penalties that stymied may possessions, including one that lasted 9 minutes and 18 plays and reached the North 1. The Blue Devils were flagged 13 times for 126 yards. Six of the calls were of the personal foul-unsportsmanlike varieties. The two teams combined for 238 yards on 24 penalties.

Defense played a huge role, holding the Titans to 102 rushing yards and 164 total. The biggest play was Bryce Haynes' interception that halted Nashua North's final possession.

"Defense is playing great," Pike said. "There's a ton of guys I could highlight."

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Football, 10/24/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Sibanda scores 3 TDs in Salem shutout

MERRIMACK - Charles Sibanda rushed for 146 yards and scored three times as Salem improved to 6-1 by thrashing Merrimack 28-0 Friday night.

"Charles has been great all year for us," said Blue Devils coach Rob Pike. 

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Football, 10/17/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Second-quarter surge powers Salem

HUDSON, N.H. — Holding a 29-point lead and receiving the second-half kickoff, any coach would wish for a 16-play possession that lasted more than 8 minutes and resulted in a game-clinching score.

Well Salem's Rob Pike now only hopes it won't be the last wish he's granted.

Erupting for four second-quarter touchdowns, the Blue Devils manhandled an Alvirne squad that entered last night's game with an identical 3-1 record, but proved no match for Salem, which rolled to a 36-14 victory.

"That's always what you're thinking about," coach Rob Pike said of the power drive that ended with Charles Sibanda's second TD run. "But no, we just wanted to execute like always and keep on improving."

Improvement is what Salem progressively has shown through the season's first half during which the Blue Devils have outscored their four opponents by a combined 142-63.

It took a quarter last night for Salem to crank up its offense, but once the faucet opened it gushed.

Sibanda began the barage with a 10-yard run 53 seconds into the second. Four minutes later, Nick Shumski, who entered without a rushing attempt all season, scored on a 33-yard jaunt.

That's when defense joined the party. Kenny Calabrese recovered a fumble on Alvirne's ensuing play, setting up a 42-yard burst by Johnny Bartose. One play later, Doug Maroun recorded his first interception return score, taking a Daniel Brown pass 33 yards and a 29-0 lead with 6:15 remaining in the half.

"I was just thinking about holding the ball and not dropping it," Maroun said.

The defense forced four turnovers and allowed two first downs in the opening two quarters. The Broncos managed only 151 total yards — 122 on their two scoring drives. Salem's front four surrendered a mere 50 yards on 20 rushes.

""Turnovers make such a big difference, and our guys were opportunistic," Pike said. "(Alvirne) has weapons on offense. They have kids that can play. Our defense just played a good game tonight."

With the clock running and Salem using reserves, Alvirne, which had not lost since a 63-20 loss to Pinkerton, managed a couple passing touchdowns in the final 7 minutes to narrow the margin.

"Turnovers are going to kill you," Alvirne coach Tim Walsh said. "That set the tone. (Salem) was controlling the line of scrimmage. Typically we can move people out and exexute what we want to do. Tonight we couldn't do that. That's what good teams do."

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Football, 10/03/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Salem rebounds with defense

SALEM — For the second consecutive week, Salem saw a huge possession die by downs at the 1-yard line.

Unlike last week, when their drive ended 20 seconds shy of upending a title-contender, the Blue Devils still had clock to play with yesterday.

And they made the most of their time as a safety and interception return helped the Devils score 17 points in fewer than 5 fourth-quarter minutes, powering a 24-21 victory over Timberlane that kept Salem in the playoff chase.

"There were a lot mixed emotions (this past week)," Salem quarterback John Cerretani said about recovering from the tough 7-point loss to Pinkerton the week before. "We were a yard short of beating the No. 1 team in the state. So we had to keep our heads up and work even harder to come back and win our homecoming."

Yesterday nearly was a case of deja vu, however, when Salem's nine-play possession that spanned the final two quarters came to a crashing end when Timberlane's Brian Lonergan delivered the first of several hits that shut down Charles Sibanda's fourth-down run feet shy of success.

Three plays later, though, nose tackle Connor Mullins took the offense off the hook with an end zone tackle of Kyle Foucher that cut Timberlane's lead to 14-9.

Following the free kick, Cerretani capped a six-play drive with a 31-yard scoring pass to Nick Shumski. And when Cerretani found Corey Ortiz for the conversion pass, Salem had it's first lead since Sibanda scored the game's initial touchdown midway through the first.

"Last week was in the back of my mind (after faltering at the 1)," Cerretani said. "But we put our heads back together and came out and ... put some points on the board."

Linebacker Johnny Bartose continued the defensive hits on Timberlane's ensuing possession, returning an interception 11 yards for the clinching score at 24-14 with 4:48 left. "It was very important to make a stop there," said Bartose, who also had 56 yards on seven carries in his second consecutive strong outing at fullback. "Defensively we were strong, but offensively we had to stay together and get things going. This feels very good."

In contrast to its opponent, Timberlane had a positive week after rallying big to snap a 10-game losing streak against Bishop Guertin. And the Owls appeared to have another rally in the works when freshman Jacob Post scored his third touchdown of the day on a 25-yard pass from Jason Hughes, capping a 65-yard drive that needed a mere 70 seconds. But Timberlane was unable to advance past its own 25 on two final possessions.

Playing on a Saturday afternoon when several coaches were able to scout, Post had a coming out party, putting up 104 total yards and a pair of second-quarter scoring runs of 16 and 5 yards that provided a 14-7 halftime lead.

"For the second week in a row, our effort was outstanding," Timberlane coach Kevin Fitzgerald said. "A play there and a play here and things might have been different. I thought the freshman Post was outstanding. He's a play maker, and I think he might have come of age today."

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Football, 09/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Pinkerton survives with defense

DERRY — After watching several defensive teammates forced to the sideline because of injury, it was up to a backup cornerback to keep Pinkerton's perfect record intact.

With the Astros' offense uncharacterstically faltering throughout, it was up to a bend-but-don't-break defense that led to a 14-7 victory over Salem before about 4,000 fans in the first of what could be several topflight match ups between contenders in the South Conference.

The biggest — and last — of several stops was provided by junior Tyler Gendron, who stopped receiver Kenny Calabrese inside the 1 on a fourth-and-goal from the nine with 20 seconds remaining.

"We had a few injuries, so someone had to make a play, and I was able to come up with it," said Gendron, was unable to deflect the John Cerratani pass despite being draped over Calabrese, but the DB immediately brought the receiver to the ground. "I just knew I had to help the team."

Gendron was in position to help because starter Nick Coombs went out with an ankle injury on a fourth-and-goal tackle of his own less than 4 minutes before his replacement's big-time tackle. Coombs stuffed running back Johnny Bartose at the 1, stuffing a Salem drive that went 53 yards and lasted more than 5 minutes.

Quality offensive help was untypically difficult for the 3-0 Astros, who have another showdown Friday with undefeated and border rival Londonderry. Leading running back T.J. Urbanik went to the sidelines with a shoulder injury after only four first-quarter carries, but the Astros are used to sharing the rushing wealth with a stable full of running  backs.

But Salem, which was looking for only its third win in 16 tries against Pinkerton the past decade, held the Astros to 150 yards on 34 carries, including scoring runs by Jack Hanaway in the first quarter and Jason Hansen in the second for a 14-0 lead.

"The kids played really hard and executed well," Blue Devil coach Rob Pike said. "Those are positives we can build on."

The Blue Devils tied the score with 2:51 left in the opening half on a 2-yard run by Charles Sibanda. But Salem was unable to score on four second-half possessions. Besides the pair stopped at the 1, Salem had drives stall at the Pinkerton 10 (that ended on a missed 27-yard field-goal attempt) and another that reached the Pinkerton 24, but was stymied by penalties.

"We have to know what we're doing wrong, and fix it," Pike said. "We can't keep making penalties like that, but Pinkerton's a good team that tightened up."

But the Astros probably will need to reestablish it's punishing ground attack to survive at Londonderry on Friday.

"The biggest problem (last night) offensively was a combination of having (inexperienced) kids not being aware of our plays and Salem selling out," Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said. "I can now fix the guys in the backfield."

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Football, 09/20/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Salem runs away with victory

Charles Sibanda rushed 12 times for a 145 yards and three touchdowns to lead Salem football 40-0 over Keene. 

Josh Rodriguez ran eight times for 121 and a touchdown. 

James Leblond's only run resulted in a 71-yard TD.  John Bartose added 45 yards on the ground and one score.

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Football, 09/12/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Homsey, Salem start off with a bang

SALEM — The first couple of series looked liked the people who ranked the two teams, Salem High and Nashua South High, knew what they were doing.

Nashua South was ranked anywhere from third to fifth in the state in a few polls and Salem was not ranked in those same polls. Nashua South got four first downs before punting on its first series and Salem was three-and-out.

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Football, 09/05/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars