Exeter Blue Hawks Football '15

Sat, Nov 07, 2015 01:00 PM @ Exeter
Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Salem 0 7 7 7 21
Exeter 14 7 0 7 28

Exeter wins it with 1:24 left

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EXETER — In a matter of moments, the Salem sidelines turned from amazing joy to extreme sorrow.

Charles Sibanda plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out with 7:10 to play in the game, completing a 14-point comeback to tie the game 21-21 and giving the Blue Devils all the momentum.

Exeter, however, responded with a 15-play drive to retake the lead with 1:24 to play, and sacked Salem quarterback Matt Soldano before he could launch a final Hail Mary to give the Blue Hawks a 28-21 win in the New Hampshire Division 1 quarterfinals.

“Give it to the kids for making an excellent comeback,” said Blue Devils head coach Rob Pike. “But we made to many mistakes on the final drive. We had a few chances, and didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”

With the victory, No. 2 seed Exeter advances to the semifinals to face (Pinkerton). The No. 3 Blue Devils end their season at 7-3, with two losses to Exeter and one to Pinkerton.

“A couple things go another way maybe we win this game,” said Pike. “I’m proud of the guys. It was a solid season. But we just fell a few plays short.”

By halftime, it seemed Exeter had taken full control of the contest. 

The Blue Hawks took the lead on their first possession, when QB Kyle Ball connected with Hunter Long on a 21-yard TD pass. Long then added to the advantage when he came up the middle to block a field goal attempt, picked up the ball and scampered 70 yard for a touchdown.

Salem bounced back with a 14-play drive that saw the Blue Devils convert two fourth-downs. Soldano finished it off, fooling the defense with a beautiful play action, rolling to his left and throwing to Matt Ayotte for a 23-yard touchdown.

But the combination of Ball and Long struck again, as the QB threw a fade into the end zone that the 6-foot-5 tight end skied to pull down in the back of the end zone 25 seconds before halftime.  

The Blue Devils, however, were ready for the comeback.

“We have been making comebacks all year,” said Pike. “I don’t know how many games we have that we were down and came back to win. So I wasn’t surprised we could rally back.”

Ben Emerson kicked off the comeback by recovering a fumble, and Soldano hit Mark Foglia on a 23-yard pass to set up a Nick Shumski 2-yard touchdown run. Star lineman Sean Nartiff them made two huge stops to force an Exeter turnover on downs. The Blue Devils then marched down field, and Sibanda scored from 6 yards out to make the score 21-21.

“We have to credit them for a terrific comeback,” said Blue Hawks coach Bill Ball. “They are a mentally, physically tough team. Rob (Pike) does a great job as a coach and Shumski and Sibanda are two very dangerous runners. They presented a lot of problems so we knew they could come back.”

Exeter, however, would not be denied. The Hawks took over at the 39-yard line, and after another Nartiff sack on third down converted a fourth down. Finally, with 1:24 left, Kyle Ball scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Following a kickoff return by Josh Sibanda, Charles’ brother, to the Salem 41, The Blue Devils had one last chance. But they stalled at the Exeter 44 with a turnover on downs.

Charles Sibanda led the Blue Devils with 91 yards rushing, to give him 1,045 on the season, while Nartiff dominated with 14 tackles.

“I can’t say enough about Sean and the rest of the guys,” said Pike. “We will look back and be proud of what we did. But it’s tough to lose a game like this.”


Game Statistics:

First Quarter

E — Hunter Long 21 pass from Kyle Ball (Evan Royce kick), 6:10

E — Long 70-yard blocked field goal return (Royce kick), 0:12

Second Quarter

S — Matt Ayotte 23 pass from Matt Soldano (Jacob Bosworth kick), 5:31

E — Long 19 pass from Ball (Royce kick), 0:25

Third Quarter

S — Nick Shumski 2 run (Bosworth kick), 2:28

Fourth Quarter

S — Charles Sibanda 6 run (Bosworth kick), 7:10

E — Ball 2 run (Royce kick), 1:16



RUSHING: Salem (42-132) — Charles Sibanda 18-91, Nick Shumski 11-42, Doug Maroun 5-9, James LaBlond 3-3, Solomon Ortiz 2-5, Sean Nartiff 1-(-4), Matt Soldono 2-(-14); Exeter (41-141) — Kyle Ball 12-30, Cam Flanagan 11-27, Wallace Mason 7-46, Allan Jackson 11-38

PASSING: Salem — Soldano 9-17-1, 180; Exeter — Ball 5-7-0, 106

RECEIVING: Salem — Ayotte 2-31, Mark Foglia 3-81, Shumski 2-41, Doug Maroun 1-19, LeBlond 1-8; Exeter — Hunter Long 3-60, Mason 3-46

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