KEENE – Saturday visits here in October are supposed to be pleasant, scenic experiences.
Don’t tell that to the Nashua High School North football team, as their trip to this end of the state was anything but. They left Keene’s Alumni Field yesterday smashed like pumpkins by the Blackbirds, 33-0.
“Dominant is a great word,” North coach Dante Laurendi said in describing the now-3-2 ‘Birds’ performance. “Not surprised, we watched film, we knew they were going to be good. After what we went through last week, we knew this was going to be a really tough game. Its a physical team. …They just flat out kicked our butts.”
How bad was it? Keene did nearly all its damage on the ground, rushing for over 300 yards. The ‘Birds had a 20 – yes, twenty – play drive chewing up 74 yards of real estate at the end of the half, and Jarrod Rokes’ 2-yard TD run with 8.4 seconds left gave the hosts a commanding 19-0 lead.
Keene coach Linwood Patinode, in his third year at the helm and beginning to draw some rave reviews on the culture change here, said he expected to be able to run the ball on North (3-2).
“Yes, that was the plan,” he said. “But I didn’t know we could shut them out, they scored a lot of points. They did a good job early in the game running the ball, and I had to go to a different look (defensively). It was sketchy there in the beginning.”
The signs of real trouble for the Titans became evident late in the first quarter. With North already trailing 7-0, QB Derek Finlay had run the ball down to the Keene 15-yard line but the drive was killed by a holding penalty that knocked things back to the 39.
“We didn’t help ourselves,” Laurendi said. “We moved the ball, but we were just not executing.”
After the Titans turned the ball over on downs, it took the ‘Birds just four plays to score with Rokes rumbling in from 27 yards out to give Keene a 13-0 lead.
“That’s the key, right there,” Patinode said. “And after that, momentum is such a big deal for football.”
And Keene had it all day. The ‘Birds began the second half with a 10-play, 60 yard drive, Rokes scoring his third TD on a fourth-and-4 run from the 12. Leading 25-0, Keene recovered a Titans fumble and at the North 40 and eight plays later got a Tanner Payne 1-yard TD and Rokes hauled in a two-point conversion pass from QB Aiden Tarr for a 33-0 margin with 2:06 left in the third.
Laurendi said there was no hangover from the tough loss to South last week.
“The only issue was Keene,” he said. “That was the issue. You look back and they’re a couple of turnovers (away) in the games with BG and Pinkerton. They were in those games a long time and they just turned the ball over. They didn’t today.”
No, they just ran right through North into the West Conference race.