In his 41st year at the helm of Plymouth Regional's storied football program – a span that's produced a state-record 334 wins and 18 championships – Chuck Lenahan has surely experienced it all.
Yet it was the manner in which the Bobcats won their most recent matchup that had the gruff-voiced grid coach admitting, “I'm kind of numb.”
It's understandable. Lenahan approved the call for a fourth-quarter fake punt that produced the game-winning touchdown. Plymouth celebrated a 21-14 Division IV semifinal win Nov. 5 against longtime rival Laconia High.
The scenario: Plymouth was forced to punt from its 32-yard line in a 14-all game. The game clock showed less than nine minutes remained in regulation.
Special teams coach Chris Sanborn persuaded Lenahan to fake the punt. The Bobcats desperately needed a spark. Their rushing attack, which generated two lengthy first-half scoring drives capped by Cole Brooker touchdown runs, was stifled after halftime.
Standout senior Taylor Newberry (37 carries for 205 yards) was asked to fake the punt for the first time in his career. It worked out better than even Lenahan could have expected.
Newberry gained the three yards necessary to extend the drive. He also picked up 65 more yards, cutting left-to-right across the field, dodging would-be tacklers, and ultimately celebrating a 68-yard TD run.
“We actually just set that up (in the week leading up to the semifinal). We were 50-50 on it,” Newberry said. “I guess it worked.”
Plymouth – a year removed from missing the playoffs on a three-team tiebreaker – actually plays the role of underdog in the Nov. 12 final.
The second-seeded Bobcats (9-1) travel to Manchester's Gill Stadium for a showdown with No. 1 seed Trinity High (10-0). The Bobcats were stunned at home in Week 4 by the Pioneers, allowing a pair of late-game touchdown passes in a 12-7 loss.
It snapped Plymouth's 40-game home win streak.
“Another week,” Lenahan said. “The kids wanted it bad. What the heck. We might as well take a trip to Manchester.”
Division IV semifinals – Trinity erupted in the second half to thump No. 4 seed Monadnock Regional of Swanzey, 43-7, in the semifinals. Ryan Carrier led Trinty's cause with 94 rushing yards (two TDs). Austin Chambers returned a punt 65 yards to paydirt, and Josh Hughes ran for a 46-yard score.
Quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi and Romeo Masuku teamed for the critical touchdown, a 50-yarder in the first-half's final seconds that extended Trinity's 6-0 lead.
Division V semifinals – No. 1 seed St. Thomas Aquinas High of Dover (10-0) and third-seeded Windham High (8-2) will meet in the Nov. 12 title game.
STA slammed Seacoast rival Somersworth High, 50-15, on Nov. 5. Windham, in its second varsity season, upset No. 2 seed and defending champion Kearsarge Regional of North Sutton, 33-27.
Ryan Monette led STA with four touchdowns. Windham's Joe Lorenz hit Scott Priestley for a game-winning 22-yard touchdown with 24 seconds to play.
Division VI semifinals – The top-seeded teams, both cooperative programs, will clash for the crown. It's No. 1 Inter-Lakes-Moultonborough (10-0) hosting No. 2 Epping-Newmarket (9-1).
Conor Donovan (101 rushing yards) paced I-L-M. Mitch Jurius added a pair of TD strikes as the Lakers defeated defending champion Newport High, 22-8, on Nov. 5.
E-N earned its first title-game berth in program history. The Blue Devils scored all their points in the first quarter and clinched a 9-0 win over Franklin High. Kevin Clougherty and Brandon Carleton combined on the tackle that produced a safety. Dan Espo added a 44-yard touchdown run later in the frame.
Division I championship – Petro Masumboku planned for his double-overtime corner kick to find the foot of a hard-charging teammate. Instead, his serve found the back of the net.
It lifted top-seeded Manchester Central High to a marathon 2-1 win over No. 2 seed Londonderry High Nov. 9 at Southern New Hampshire University's Larkin Field.
“In my 12 years coaching at Central, I've never ever seen us score on a corner kick serve. It's a freaky thing, but that's soccer,” Central coach Chris LaBerge told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Kenny Desmarais gave Londonderry a first-half lead with a header tucked inside the post. Ramiro Osorio answered for Central (18-0-1) with a penalty kick midway through the second stanza.
Masumboku's marker came in the 104th minute.
Division II championship – In the final minutes of a scoreless contest, Erik Martel delivered a state title for top-seeded Bedford High, a 1-0 winner over No. 2 seed Lebanon High Nov. 9 at SNHU.
The championship win was the first for Bedford (19-0-1).
After the Raiders failed to successfully clear the ball, Martel gained possession, weaved his way around multiple defenders, and fired a 15-yard strike.
Division III championship – Top-seeded Bow High won its 16-team state tournament with a 3-0 win over No. 15 seed Raymond High Nov. 6 at SNHU.
Jason Underhill converted a penalty kick that proved to be the game-winner. The Falcons – after second-half strikes by Dan Crisman – celebrated a 20-0 season.
Division IV championship – Seventh-seeded Wilton-Lyndeborough High completed an upset-filled run through the bracket, knocking off the Nos. 2, 6 and 5 seeds, respectively, in the final three rounds. The 2-1 win over fifth-seeded Sunapee High Nov. 6 at SNHU captured the crown.
Adam Edmunds snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the 79th minute, clinching a second straight title for W-L (15-4-1).
Division I championship – Exeter High joined exclusive company by winning its third straight championship.
Beating Concord High, 4-1, Nov. 5 at SNHU, the top-seeded Blue Hawks (18-2) became the state's first large-school program to three-peat since former national power Manchester West, under Jack Amero, clinched three consecutive crowns from 1995-97.
Kenoe Eichholz opened the scoring seconds into the match's fourth minute. It was the only goal of the first half. Abby Short, Erica Estey and Dani Bean gave the champs a four-goal lead after the break.
Division II championship – Peyton Kent ended overtime with her free-kick strike. Top-seeded Souhegan High of Amherst, in turn, celebrated its 11th championship Nov. 5 at SNHU.
Kent connected from 25 yards out in the eighth minute of overtime. The shot scraped the crossbar and found the back of the net. Madison Learned gave the Sabers (18-2) their first lead. Kent assisted on the marker. Tessa Hill tied the contest early in the second half for the third-seeded Marauders.
Division III championship – Runners-up a year ago, Bow's top-seeded Falcons finished No. 1. They beat defending champ and No. 2 seed Campbell High of Litchfield, 2-1.
Bow's big win Nov. 5 at SNHU earned the program its first state title. Kyle Duval ended the action with a game-winning goal early in OT. It was her first tally at the varsity level.
The Falcons (17-1-1) fell behind with less than 10 minutes to play. Oliva Planty staked the Cougars to the lead. Barely 2 minutes later, however, Naomi Kramer knotted the score.
Division IV championship – Top-seeded Sunapee clinched the crown with a 2-1 overtime win over second-seeded Littleton High Nov. 5 at SNHU.
Molly Puchtler drilled the magic marker, a corner kick that found the back of the net 13 minutes after overtime opened. The Lakers (18-1-2) celebrated their first title.
Puchtler opened the scoring with a penalty kick early in the match. Scoring threat Julia Winn answered for the Crusaders midway through the first half.
Division I championship – The defending champion ended a storybook run for the Cinderella squad. That sums up the title round, played Nov. 3 at Bedford's Bulldogs Stadium.
Taylor Blood scored the only goal, a second-half strike that fueled fourth-seeded Winnacunnet High of Hampton to a 1-0 win over No. 2 seed Manchester Memorial. The outcome snapped a string of nine straight shutouts (13 overall) for the Crusaders, who reached their first-ever final.
The Warriors (12-4-1), however, allowed just eight goals in their entire campaign. Goalie Haley Morancy made 11 saves in the team's third straight one-goal shutout win of the tourney.
Division II championship – After a comfortable three-goal win in its tourney opener, third-seeded Bow rattled off three straight one-goal wins. The Falcons finished with a 2-1 title-round triumph over fourth-seeded Merrimack Valley Regional of Penacook.
Lindsey Nerbonne buried Bow's goals Nov. 2 at Bulldogs Stadium. MV was riding a three-game shutout streak, which the Falcons (16-2) ended less than 2 minutes into the final.
Nerbonne netted her second goal shortly after halftime. Bekka Donovan cut the Pride's lead in half inside the final nine minutes of regulation.
Division III championship – Manchester's Derryfield School was also tough in one-goal tourney tilts. Earning a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed, DS won three consecutive games by a single score.
The last one was a 2-1 overtime win against fifth-seeded Stevens High of Claremont. It earned the Cougars the right to celebrate Nov. 3 at Bulldogs Stadium.
Zoe PiSierra scored from the corner – on an attempt in which the ball was deflected to her stick. Regardless, she made her chance count, and the Cougars (15-1-1) clinched their second straight title.
Division I championship – On the campus of Derry's Pinkerton Academy, No. 2-seeded Hollis/Brookline High won hardware for the fourth time since 1999. The Cavaliers worked a 3-1 win over top-seeded Merrimack High Nov. 5.
Merrimack won the regular-season matchup by an identical score. But in the title round, the Cavs (20-2) showed more composure.
Kelsey Berry led the winners with 17 kills and 15 digs. Kristyn Golver had 41 assists and Kaitlyn Atkinson made four big blocks.
Division II championship – Gilford High finally made its way to the top. The team's 3-1 championship decision Nov. 5 did it.
The Golden Eagles, runners-up the previous two campaigns, earned the tourney's top seed and stifled second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas at Pinkerton. As a result, the Golden Eagles celebrated a 20-0 season.
They also celebrated a noteworthy accomplishment for Charleyne Panner, who earned her 1,000th career assist. She tallied 43 assists in the title game, closing her career with 1,023.
Division III championship – Fifth-seeded Moultonborough Academy outlasted No. 2 seed Farmington High, 3-2, at Plymouth State University's Foley Gymnasium Nov. 4.
The Panthers also ousted top-seeded Winnisquam Regional in the semifinals. It all added up to a 17-3 season, ending with the program's sixth state crown.
Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “New Hampshire High School Football Show” on WGIR-AM 610 and WQSO-FM 96.7 every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.