MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Junior Bears left Gill Stadium on Saturday night as 2017 Northeast Junior High Football League Junior Division Champions following their 60-28 victory against the Tewksbury Junior Redmen.
Manchester jumped out to an early lead thanks to a 50-yard touchdown run from Erik Seymore on the game’s second play from scrimmage. The Bears would transform a fumble on the game’s second drive into another Seymore touchdown, this one from 43 yards out, but the Redmen would respond early in the second quarter with a 34-yard scoring run by Evan Galanis.
Seymore added another three touchdowns by the end of the first half, but Tewksbury remained within striking distance thanks to a second touchdown from Galanis as well as a score by Cameron Kearney.
Tewksbury began the second half with nine-play, 65-yard drive, ending with Kearney’s second touchdown of the night. However, multiple turnovers and the continuing relentlessness of Seymore ultimately made it clear that the Bears would finish their season with a 9-0 record.
Seymore, currently a sixth grader at Southside Middle School, ended the night with all of Manchester’s nine touchdowns. He also finished the game with 554 yards on 23 rushes, with all but two of his touchdowns coming from over 50 yards from the end zone.
The other Bears combined for 45 yards of offense on the ground from 11 carries.
Tewksbury ended with 307 yards of total offense, with Galanis grabbing 107 yards on six attempts to lead the Redmen in rushing.
A tenth Seymore touchdown came off the scoreboard due to a holding penalty near the end of the contest, but tensions began to rise as the final seconds began to tick off the clock.
Near the Beech Street end zone, several spectators representing both teams entered into an altercation. While the exact trigger for the fracas could not be immediately determined, other nearby bystanders stepped to end the confrontation just seconds after it began.
Tewksbury head coach Brian Kearney had praise for Seymore’s performance, but questioned his continued presence in the game after the result appeared to be determined.
“You’re up 30 points with three minutes left, I wouldn’t give it to my stud,” he said. “My son had a great game today, he was taken out with the last five minutes of the game. We share the ball around and didn’t run up the score this year. The philosophy in Tewksbury is ‘do it with pride.’”
Manchester head coach Scott Arzilli says he followed the same philosophy throughout the season with his players, but the fact that this would be Seymore’s last game as a Junior Bear made an emotional mark as he tried to help his star player savor a special moment of his childhood before it faded away.
“This is a kid that could play in the NFL someday,” said Arzilli. “I wanted him to finish the game on the field, I’ve taken him out of too many games this year because we’ve been up big.”
While Seymore certainly stole the spotlight on this night, the Junior Bears championship and perfect record came from a team effort according to Arzilli.
“This has been a magical season all year. These kids worked their butts off every single day, we play as a team,” he said.
On the other side, Kearney found pride in the fact that his squad bounced back from an 0-2 start to make it this far. He believes that without Seymore, things may have been different. Like Arzilli, he also noted that there were other players on the field, and he hoped for more from his team on this night.
“We did our best to prepare our players to know who was getting the ball, but some of our linebackers checked out of the game physically and emotionally,” he said.