West falls to Merrimack Valley, 37-6, loses Doria to shoulder injury

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MANCHESTER, NH — What has been a difficult season for the Manchester West football team got even more challenging, Friday night at Meisel Veterans Memorial Field.

Not only did the Blue Knights fall to Merrimack Valley, 37-6, to fall to 0-5 on the season, they lost promising sophomore quarterback Gio Doria to a shoulder injury, the extent of which was not immediately known.6666

“It didn’t look good (initially). He’s going to need to be checked out by a specialist but I think he’s going to be ok,” said West Head Coach Andrew Provencher. “We’ll have to see how it plays out. He’s a tough kid. A lot of kids respect him. He’s a helluva athlete, a really good competitor.

Doria was injured when he was taken down by two Merrimack defenders on the opening play of the second quarter. He was tended to on the field for several minutes before being helped up. Doria appeared unsteady on his feet as he made his way to the sidelines, then was taken directly to the Trainer’s Room for treatment.

In the second half, Doria was spotted on the West sidelines with his shoulder bandaged and arm in a sling, cheering on his teammates. Provencher said it was a testimony to Doria’s leadership and character.

At the time of Doria’s injury, West already found itself in a 16-0 hole. Merrimack Valley (2-4) scored on its first play from scrimmage, when senior quarterback Brayden Hussey connected with junior Reece Clermont on a 66-yard touchdown pass.

Clermont played an outstanding all-around game, catching three passes for 96 yards and rushing for 106 yards and two more scores on just eight carries.

The West defense, which has struggled throughout the season, showed signs of life on Merrimack Valley’s next possession, stopping the Pride on downs with a brilliant goal-line stand. But the celebration was short-lived. On first down from their own 1-yard line, senior Carl Taylor Jr. was swarmed under bin the end zone for a safety by MV’s Colby Sheffer.

Things got worse for the Blue Knights following the free kick. It took the Pride just three plays to march 46 yards, with Michael Heine scoring on a sweep from 20 yards out to give Merrimack Valley a 16-0 lead.

Manchester West’s offense performed better than it has in recent weeks. The Blue Knights had 223 yards of total offense, including 69 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving from junior KeShawn Foster. Taylor Jr., who took over at quarterback after Doria’s injury, rushed for 66 yards on 16 carries.

But despite their success moving the ball, the Blue Knights were unable to cut into the Pride’s lead. Twice, in the second quarter, West drove into Merrimack Valley territory, only to be stopped on 4th down. As much credit is due the MV defense, the Blue Knights also shot themselves in the foot with devastating penalties at just the wrong time.

“We’re a young team and I don’t think we have the maturity, right now, to bounce back after falling behind like that,” said Provencher. “We had some mental mistakes, like with the penalties, and that’s (lack of) maturity.”

Merrimack Valley extended its lead to 30-0 in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Sheffer (11 carries, 80 yards) and a remarkable 13-yard scoring run by Clermont, during which he broke two tackles in the backfield before reversing field and scampering into the end zone.

West’s best scoring chance came in the final minutes of the first half. Starting at their own 43 with just over four minutes to play, the Blue Knights marched inside the Pride’s 15-yard line, thanks largely to runs of 13 and 15 yards by Taylor Jr. But on third-and-1 from the 11, Foster was taken down for a two-yard loss. And on 4th down, with under a minute remaining, Taylor Jr.’s pass into the end zone was knocked away.

Manchester West was able to break the shutout on a 13-yard touchdown run by Divine McCall. Normally a lineman, McCall lined up in the backfield, took the direct snap and rumbled over guard before plowing through tacklers for the score.

While not having an impact on the final result, McCall’s score was just the third touchdown scored by West this season and provided a reason for the Blue Knights’ fans and sidelines to celebrate.

Manchester West will be back in action Friday night, when it plays host to Hanover (3-2) in the annual Homecoming Game.

 

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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.

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