These are unusual times for the Souhegan High School football program.
For the first time in recent memory – maybe ever – the Sabers have lost three games in a row, the last of which came last Saturday in a 35-0 loss to Hollis/Brookline. That was Souhegan’s first loss to the Cavaliers, and the first time its been shutout since 2007.
After an 0-3 start in Division III (1-3 overall), Souhegan gets a crossover game against Division I Manchester Central. The Sabers and Little Green (2-1, 3-1) meet Friday at 7 p.m. at Gill Stadium.
Souhegan Mike Beliveau wasn’t pleased with anyone’s performance following the loss to H/B, including his own. This week, he’s seen a response in practice.
“There’s a lot more focus and intensity,” he said. “I could really see it. There’s a lot more resolve on (the players’) part to get things turned around. The most important thing is we need to play better football.”
It doesn’t get any easier this week, as the Sabers go against a team that has a multitude of weapons on offense, not to mention the depth that comes with being a larger school.
“They are a nightmare to prepare a defensive game plan,” Beliveau said of Central. “They run a multitude of formations, maybe as many as 15. They really come at you in a lot of different ways.”
The Little Green is coming off a 34-6 win over Nashua North, a game in which standout Jared Chandler scored three touchdowns – two receiving, one rushing – as Central scored 20 points in the second quarter to erase a 6-0 deficit.
When Souhegan and Central met last year, Chandler was the Green’s quarterback. This season, he’s all over the field on offense, while Riley Cote has stepped in under center.
“To be able to keep a kid like that on the field, and have another quarterback that is outstanding as well, it adds another weapon,” Beliveau said. “It puts another gray hair on my head.
“They have an explosive receiver in Junior Brown. He and Chandler are huge playmakers. The quarterback can hurt you with his arm. The thing that jumps out at you, when you look at the tape, they’re just really big.”
Souhegan may once again be without one of its best players, as Chris Chininis remains questionable after an injury against Goffstown forced him to miss most of that game and last week’s loss to H/B.
One thing that the Sabers are excited for is the opportunity to play a game on Central’s home field.
“I think it’s quite a special place to go play a football game,” Beliveau said. “Souhegan has never done that. We’ve gone there for the jamborees, but it’s not quite the same feel.
“It’s their homecoming. The kids are excited to be a part of it. They feel kind of gutsy to be a Division III program going into a Division I homecoming. They feel good about themselves for taking on the challenge.”