Seymore, defense carry Memorial to Turkey Bowl win over Central, 15-0

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Photo by Stacy Harrison.  

MANCHESTER, NH – An ironclad defense, a workhorse running back and some extra-special special teams play carried Memorial to a 15-0 win over crosstown rival Central, in the 41st Turkey Bowl, Thursday morning at Gill Stadium.

The victory marked just the second time Memorial has been able to lift the Turkey Bowl trophy and the first since 2014.

“It’s a testament to these kids. It’s not easy to go through the year that we did, go out and find a way to win against Merrimack and then come out today and end a long drought,” said Memorial Head Coach Rob Sturgis. “It’s just a testament to the kids, fighting through all the adversity, coming together and finding a way to overcome it. And then, at the end of the year to play our best complimentary game of the year, it’s awesome!”

Fullback Erik Seymore took care of the offensive chores for Memorial. The senior scored a pair of touchdowns on short runs and finished with 165 yards on 35 carries.

But it was the Memorial defense that dominated the game from start to finish. The Crusaders (3-8), who had given up 30.5 points a game heading into Thanksgiving, held Central (2-9) to just 62 yards of total offense and only one non-penalty first down. The Crusaders defense also forced three turnovers, including a fumble recovery by Januel Ramirez at the Central 20-yard line with 6:17 to play in the game, setting up Seymore’s second score.

“Our offense struggled a lot. Give Memorial all the credit in the world,” said Central Head Coach Ryan Ray. “They played amazing on defense and their offense played well enough to win.”

Central quarterback Caydin Salvi completed just 7 of 18 passes for 21 yards and a pair of interceptions by Memorial’s  Jose Soto and Chase Burris. Soto, a senior linebacker had a monster game, continually disrupting the Central offense.

As a unit, the Memorial defense never allowed Central to drive the ball inside the Crusaders’ 40-yard line.

“The three seniors on that group, Jacob Clarington, Nick Young and Jose Soto, they played their best football today, (their) most disciplined football. It’s a testament to them being leaders,” said Sturgis. “With so many sophomores and freshmen, very few upperclassmen on the team, for them to come out and execute the game plan to perfection was awesome to see.”

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Photo by Stacy Harrison.
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Photo by Stacy Harrison.

Memorial lost 8 of its first 9 games, but has played its best football to close the season with wins over Merrimack (14-12) and Central.

The Crusaders entered Gill Stadium sporting a new look. At the urging of his players, Sturgis dug deep into the Memorial Athletics storage room and found a set of 50 jerseys worn by Memorial football teams back in the 1990s. The “throwback” uniforms seemed to work some magic for the Crusaders.

Both teams struggled to move the ball early on, with penalties, tough defense and a surprisingly strong wind leading both coaches to play a patient, field position game.

The breakthrough came in the second quarter, thanks to some excellent play from the Memorial special teams. Facing 4th and 3 at the Central 44, Crusaders’ punter Brady Harrison lofted a punt that seemed destined for the end zone and a touchback. But the Memorial coverage team raced downfield and downed the ball at the Central 2-yard line (a play they would repeat in the second half).

Playing in the shadow of its goalposts, the Central offense was unable to get a first down and was forced to punt with about four minutes to play in the second quarter. The snap to punter Mason Maylone was low and when he went down to scoop it up, his knee touched the turf in the end zone, giving Memorial a safety and a 2-0 lead.

After surrendering the safety, Central had a free kick from its own 20. Memorial’s Connor McFarland returned the kickoff to the Central 44-yard line. Aided by a pass interference penalty, Memorial marched 44 yards in six plays, with Seymore plowing into the end zone from two yards out to give the Crusaders a 9-0 lead at halftime.

Central’s defense played well, keeping the game close until Seymore’s second touchdown run in the game’s final minutes.

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Photo by Stacy Harrison.
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Photo by Stacy Harrison.

About this Author

Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.