Souhegan wins first football title

AMHERST – For the sixth time in his high school coaching career, Mike Beliveau stood in the middle of the field watching a team celebrate a Division III championship.

For the first time, though, it was Beliveau’s.

The second-seeded Sabers (10-1) rode running back Luke Schlotman (three touchdowns) and – of course – junior standout tailback Sean Jellison (121 yards rushing) to the first football title in school history courtesy of a 41-0 win over neighboring Milford (7-4) on Saturday.

“Year after year, we’ve had very good chances and we’ve been stopped,” the 10th-year head coach said. “Over the years, some memories I have unfortunately haven’t been good ones regarding championship games. I remember apologizing to you guys for non-competitive title games – was it last year? Thirty-four to nothing against Plymouth? In my head coaching tenure, I was oh-for-November.”

Fittingly enough, Jellison ran a punt back 45 yards with 9:49 left in the fourth quarter for the team’s fourth touchdown, pretty much sealing the victory and definitely setting a new state record with his 77th career touchdown. Pinkerton Academy’s Matt Jordan is the former record-holder.

Jellison had a cool 108 yards rushing in the first half alone, but couldn’t find the end zone, including on an 11-play, second-quarter drive when the Milford defense stymied him in the red career touchdown. Pinkerton Academy’s Matt Jordan is the former record-holder. Jellison had a cool 108 yards rushing in the first half alone, but couldn’t find the end zone, including on an 11-play, second-quarter drive when the Milford defense stymied him in the red zone. Beliveau called Jellison’s number four times from inside the 14-yard line to no avail. On third-and-goal from the 1, it was Schlotman who plowed in for his third touchdown of the half. Quarterback Brian Conti found Jellison for a two-point conversion to make it 22-0.

It was that combination of Schlotman and Jellison, along with running back Galen Verney’s (52 yards rushing) change of pace that helped the Souhegan offense along. But, it was the Sabers’ defense and fourth-seeded Milford’s inability to hold onto the ball that truly cost the Spartans a title.

“It seemed like 45 turnovers,” said Milford coach Keith Jones, whose Spartans beat Monadnock of East Swanzey for the Division IV title last season before moving up to D-III. “You can’t keep giving them opportunity after opportunity . . . because Sean Jellison is a fantastic football player. But you know what, Galen Verney is a fantastic player. Luke Schlotman is a fantastic player. Brian Conti is a fantastic player.’’

Souhegan junior Pat Redmond logged his first of two fumble recoveries midway through the first quarter after Milford running back Matt LaRosee (15 carries, 62 yards) fumbled. The Spartans seemed to catch a break, recovering a Jellison drop two plays later, but Milford quarterback Pete VonIderstine fumbled on the very next play. Mike Clark recovered for Souhegan and, three plays later, Conti found Schlotman open across the middle for a 39-yard touchdown pass.

It was Redmond’s second fumble recovery in the second quarter that led to Schlotman’s third touchdown rumble before the half.

“The fumbles weren’t even forced fumbles,” Jones said. “Give credit to (Souhegan), though. They’ve been here before.”

And what a way to go out – save a Thanksgiving Day game against Merrimack – for a senior like Schlotman.

“It was amazing. I felt like Sean Jellison,” joked Schlotman, who was just as active on the defensive side of the ball.

“We knew we had to start out strong,” Schlotman continued. “We just brought it out. Right off the start. Defensively, I was in the zone. There you go. We practiced real, real hard all week for this.”

“He was our No. 1 guy in the weight room this year,” Beliveau said of Schlotman. “And it shows on the field. He was an absolute monster out there. Without question, Luke’s our most ferocious player out there.”

After Jellison flew down the sideline, escorted by Verney, to make it 29-0 in the fourth, Redmond made it 35-0 on a 1-yard run with 2:27 remaining. Max Morrisey put the cherry on top by returning an interception 30 yards with 51 seconds left.

Helping Beliveau and the Sabers bask in the glow is the fact they beat chief rival Plymouth 28-10 in the semifinals a mere three weeks after beating the Bobcats for the first time in school history.

“There really isn’t a better feeling than winning a state championship with your friends,” Redmond said. “Hopefully we’ll get it next year.”