AMHERST, NH – Campbell High School came into the Division III State Championship game with a simple game plan – run, run, run … and if that doesn’t work, run some more.
That ground-and-pound strategy evolved during the regular season and served the Cougars well in a 37-14 semifinal win over Monadnock. On Saturday, Campbell executed the game plan to perfection, en route to a 16-14 win over previously unbeaten Trinity High. It is the Cougars’ third D-III State Title and first since 2017.
Trinity (10-1), which had beaten Campbell, 36-22 during the regular season, was making its third trip to the title game in the past four seasons. The Pioneers beat Lebanon in 2019 and fell to Pelham in 2021.
“We knew what they were going to do. It was no different than what they did earlier. We had trouble stopping it then and we had trouble stopping it today,” said Trinity Coach Rob Cathcart. “The difference in the first game was that we executed better (on offense). We were able to make more plays. We didn’t execute well today.”
As was the case in the win over Monadnock, Campbell’s offense was led by workhorse running back Scott Hershberger. The six-foot, 200-pound sophomore ran the ball 44 times for 206 yards, scored both Cougar touchdowns and both 2-point conversions. As a team, Campbell rolled up 279 yards of total offense, all on the ground.
Of the Cougars’ 69 offensive plays, 65 of them were runs, mainly out of the “wildcat” formation, with one of the backs taking a direct snap from center and either pounding between the tackles or looking to sweep around the end. It was a throwback to the days of leather helmets and “student body left.”
And it worked.
Campbell (9-2) didn’t punt once in the game. Rather, the Cougars made full use of all four downs on every drive. The Trinity defense was able to hold Campbell to just 6-for-16 on 3rd down conversions, the Cougars were an eye-popping 7-for-10 on 4th down conversions, with Hershberger converting all seven.
Campbell drew first blood with 8:13 to play in the first half on a 38-yard touchdown run (and 2-point conversion) by Hershberger. The score capped a 15-play, 92-yard drive that ate up more than eight minutes of clock over the first and second quarters. Along the way, the Cougars converted three fourth downs, the first of which, at their own 31, kept the drive alive by less than two inches.
Campbell’s ball-control offense succeeded in keeping Trinity’s high-powered offense off the field. The Pioneers entered the game averaging 39.5 points a game but had trouble stringing plays together against Campbell’s aggressive front seven. Junior quarterback Jack Service was under constant pressure and completed just 1-of-9 passes for 9 yards. He was sacked twice, threw an interception and lost a fumble.
But despite running just 29 plays, Trinity managed to stay in the game thanks to the big-play efforts of Anthony DiGiantommaso. The freshman flanker (and backup quarterback) set up Trinity’s first touchdown with a 42-yard completion on an option pass to junior DeVohn Ellis, who was taken down at the Campbell 14.
Three plays later, Service scored on a quarterback draw from 5 yards out. A 2-point conversion rush by Ellis tied the game 8-8, heading into halftime.
Campbell retook the lead with another long drive on its opening possession of the second half. The Cougars methodically marched 61 yards in 13 plays, all on the ground, with Hershberger punching it in from three yards out. His 2-point rush gave Campbell a 16-8 lead.
Trinity answered quickly, this time showing off some 4th down magic of its own. On 4th and 1 from the Trinity 46, Giantommaso took a handoff from service, swept around right end, broke two ankle tackles and outraced the defense for a 54-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter. But this time, Campbell stuffed Service on his attempted 2-point rush, keeping the score 16-14 entering the fourth.
The Trinity defense stood tall in the fourth quarter and made a huge 4th down stop to give the ball back to the offense. But on first down at Trinity’s own 31, Service was sacked by Jack Kanaley, losing the ball in the process. Nick Hershberger recovered the fumble for Campbell and the Cougars were able to run out the clock.