LONDONDERRY — For whatever it may be worth, the Londonderry football team has played in three “competitive” games this year, and Salem was the opponent in two of them.
But, after Saturday, that still means the end of the season for the Blue Devils.
The Lancers have been on a war path all year, and yesterday’s 35-14 victory over the Blue Devils punched their ticket to next Sunday’s Division 1 state championship game. There, they’ll take on Exeter at UNH (6 p.m.),in search of the program’s first title since 1998.
“We’ve been working for this since the summer started,” said Londonderry senior running back Jeff Wiedenfeld.
“It’s where we began, and we’re just going to keep working for it. This is a grind mentality, this is a family we’ve got here. And this is why we do the things we do.”
For Salem (8-3), it was a hard-fought end to a season that saw the team fight through a well of injuries.
The Blue Devils did welcome defensive lineman Beau Dillon, who had missed a month with a knee injury, back to the lineup, but that wasn’t going to be enough to stop the high-flying Londonderry (11-0) offense.
“I’m incredibly proud,” said Salem coach Rob Pike. “High school football is tough. (Londonderry) is a good team. Our kids worked really hard, they got better all year and we have good, tough kids.
“We just got beat by a great team today. They haven’t been beaten all year, and there’s a reason for that.”
Londonderry, which was averaging 47.5 points per game, scored on its first possession when dual-threat QB Jake McEachern hit top wideout Cole Keegan on a 4-yard score. The Blue Devils were then forced to punt on their next possession, and things could have gotten out of hand early.
But Michael Ference came up with a huge interception, setting up Josh Maroun to plow his way in for a 9-yard TD to make it a 7-7 game with just over five minutes left in the first half.
“(Salem) is a tough team,” said Wiedenfeld, whose team’s closest game this year was a 42-26 win over Salem in Week 2. “I give them the respect they deserve. Maroun, (Brandon) Wall, I’ve played with those guys my whole life. They’re a bunch of dogs. They fight the whole time and I respect that.”
But after Salem’s score, Londonderry went on a long drive that ended when Wiedenfeld (22 carries, 107 yards, 2 TDs) took a direct snap and barrelled in for a 1-yard score with 42 seconds left in the half. The Lancers then received the second half kickoff and, on a 4th-and-10 play, McEachern hit Keegan over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
The Belichick-ian double score proved insurmountable for Salem, which then fell down 28-7 after Wiedenfeld’s second TD midway through the quarter. The Blue Devils scored on a 5-yard Michael Ference touchdown pass from sophomore QB Kaleb Bates, but McEachern (279 all-purpose yards) broke off a 66-yard TD run on Londonderry’s ensuing possession to ice it.
“Our kids laid it out on the line,” said Pike. “We have great kids who worked really hard all year, and we had a good season.”
Defensively, Alex Tsetsilas had three tackles for loss and seven total for Londonderry, and Jake Naar also had seven tackles with a sack.
In the finals, the Lancers will face a successful Exeter program that has played in 12 championship games since Londonderry’s last title in 1998, and has won five of them.
“We’re headed to UNH next week and we’re very excited about it,” said Londonderry coach Jimmy Lauzon. “Being the favorite or the underdog it doesn’t really matter. You just have to play better for 48 minutes.”
Londonderry 35, Salem 14
Salem (8-3): 0 7 7 0 — 14
Londonderry (11-0): 7 7 14 7 — 35
L — Cole Keegan 4 pass from Jake McEachern (Zach Fawcett kick), 4:04
S — Josh Maroun 9 run (Jake Brady kick), 5:35
L — Jeff Wiedenfeld 1 run (Fawcett kick), :42
L — Keegan 15 pass from McEachern (Fawcett kick), 8:20
L — Wiedenfeld 8 run (Fawcett kick), 4:43
S — Michael Ference 5 pass from Kaleb Bates (Brady kick), :39
L — McEachern 65 run (Fawcett kick), 11:20
RUSHING: LONDONDERRY (43-304): Jake McEachern 13-176, Jeff Wiedenfeld 22-107, Tyler Kayo 6-18, Eric Raza 1-3, Cole Keegan 1-0; SALEM (44-186): Josh Maroun 18-81, Riley Mulvey 9-37, Jake Brady 6-34, Brandon Wall 7-17, Kaleb Bates 3-14, Damian Gigante 1-3
PASSING: L — McEachern 7-12-1, 103; S — Bates 3-10-0, 17
RECEIVING: L — Keegan 4-52, Raza 1-19, Wiedenfeld 1-18, Alex Tsetsilas 1-14; S — Brady 1-12, Michael Ference 1-5, Aidan McDonald 1-0