MANCHESTER, N.H. – Another intra-city contest in a year that has seen more intra-city contests than most, and the two schools participating in this contest were both literally and figuratively miles apart.
Manchester Memorial had little trouble with Manchester West on Friday night, climbing to 3-0 on the year with a 41-6 home victory.
On offense, Memorial looked like a wave of exuberance bound only by its occasional inability to harness itself while the Blue Knights generally appeared sluggish and small, unable to garner any momentum with two exceptions.
One of those exceptions came late in the fourth quarter as Icean Taylor found Edwen Rodriguez for a beautiful 48-yard scoring pass. The other came in the first half when a 12-play drive got as far as the Memorial two-yard line before ending in a fumble, one of three lost by West on the evening.
Other than those two moments, the Blue Knights had little to show for their time with the ball. Of their 23 first-half plays, 15 were for less than three yards. Tailback Xavier Burpee led the team with 44 rushing yards total, but left with a high ankle injury that appeared serious. Rodriguez was next in line with 30 yards, but that took 14 carries to produce.
“It’s just the story of our season so far, we can’t get any momentum at all,” said West Head Coach Tom Bozoian.
Memorial Head Coach Rob Sturgis said his squad was somewhat shocked by West’s early near score and the previous drive to that one that took ten plays until also ending in a fumble.
However, the Crusaders’ defense began to snuff out any potential drive-extending plays after those first two West possessions, highlighted by a drive in the second half where Rodriguez received the ball four straight times and managed a composite four yards before giving the ball back to Memorial on downs.
“Our kids on defense responded, they caused chaos and forced some turnovers,” said Sturgis. “You gotta give credit to West, they’ve got some athletes, but our defense did what it was supposed to tonight.”
On the other side of the ball, West’s defense also started slowly but couldn’t find their stride, unlike the hosts. A litany of broken tackles allowed Jeff Josefik to find Will Clark in the end zone on Memorial’s first drive and allowed Kai Colson a six-yard score on the second drive. Only a Josefik interception by West’s Jamal Tyler stopped a seemingly inevitable third score before the half.
After the break, Roman Carnevale added a 25-yard touchdown on the first play after a West fumble, Josefik found Dom Lesieur for an eight-yard score through the air, Pat Burke added a seven-yard rushing touchdown and backup quarterback Braden Hafeman added one more touchdown for good measure.
For Sturgis, the in-house culture has been slowly improving after endemic frustration, so improvement from the program’s one win in five years was expected. However, such a start might have been as hard to predict as the truncated season brought by COVID-19 even if it wasn’t for the Crusaders.
“We knew that in the third year here, this was going to be the spark. You can never predict 3-0, but we knew this was going to be the next step,” said Sturgis. “But it’s definitely where we thought we could be. We knew were going to be a good team. We had a lot of good kids who had been starters for a lot of years now. We knew if they kept on buying into the system, they were going to start believing in themselves.”
Memorial had 12 separate rushers combine for 271 yards on the ground, led by Josefik’s 51 yards, all of those yards coming in the first half.
Josefik also finished 9-for-11 through the air for 62 total yards of passing.