As we have done annually for the past fifteen seasons, we hand over our championship game previews to the people who know these teams better than anyone, the coaches who faced them during the season.
Using blind quotes, we asked three head coaches to break down the championship games being played on Saturday afternoon at Bedford high school.
Ian Melewski and I will bring you all the highlights and play-by-play as Pelham looks for their third consecutive championship and Souhegan their second in three seasons.
Our championship scouting report is brought to you by our partners at Manchester Community College, who have an open house on their campus today from 4 to 6 pm!
Pelham vs. Souhegan
The Pelham Pythons last lost a football game in November of 2019, and on Saturday, they will go for their third consecutive championship after winning the Division III titles in 2020 and 2021.
Standing in their path is the team it took forty-seven and a half minutes to beat in Week 8 of the regular season, the 2020 Division II champion Souhegan Sabers.
We asked three head coaches who faced the teams during the season to break down both teams and the match-up using blind quotes.
Beginning with Tom Babaian's Pythons.
"It starts with their defensive line, which is outstanding," said one of the head coaches we spoke to. "They might have the best defensive front we have gone against in years. They don't try and trick you or do anything out of the ordinary; they use their strength and athletic ability to beat you."
"Jake Cawthron, Ricky Lacosse, and Memphis Patterson, in particular, just ate us up. We came into the game concerned about their linebackers, but it was the front that beat us. We ran the football on every team we played this season but we could not run the football against them."
A fellow coach also talked about the Pythons defense.
"They out tough you. They are a very emotional team, and they feed off of a lack of respect, which doesn't actually exist, but I think Tom and his staff and maybe even the parents have put that in the players' heads."
"They ride a wave of momentum that could lead them to a title or be their undoing. They are by far the best team in our division when they get it rolling. When they face a little adversity, I've seen those kids start to act out and show their frustration. We weren't a good enough offense to take advantage of it, but Souhegan is."
"Memphis Patterson is a stud, and (Jake) Cawthron sets the edge for them. Ethan Demmons is their plug linebacker, and he is a beast. He makes you pay for blocking him. He hits your guy, and your guy goes backward."
"Their strength is their defense. You try to throw the ball on them but they get to your quarterback too quickly. It needs to be quick reads and throws."
What about the Pelham offense?
"Their offense is very good. They don't do anything flashy, but they get their four or five yards and move the chains. Jake Travis isn't a great thrower but is excellent at creating when the play breaks down."
"Against us, he threw the ball up a couple of times, and his receivers just went out and made a play. They are a big strong team, the most physical team we have seen all year."
A fellow coach talked about the Pythons running game.
"They have a lot of depth, a lot of weapons. Cesar Martinez, Alex Carroll, Jake Travis, Jake Cawthron, they all can make plays."
"They roll with the momentum of the game. You have to slow them down and frustrate them because they play without a lot of discipline when they get frustrated. You have to get them out of their comfort zone, whether it's hitting late, talking, or being out of position they can react poorly to pressure."
What about Robin Bowkett’s Souhegan Sabers?
"They don't have the depth of Pelham, but they have three absolute studs in (QB) Romy Jain, (RB) JJ Bright, and (WR) Madux McGrath. They will spread Pelham out and use the turf field at Bedford to their advantage. They are by far the fastest team in our division.”
"The most important player in this game is (Romy) Jain. I thought he could have thrown the ball better against Gilford-Belmont. I thought his receivers bailed him out on some low throws, especially Cole Manning, who made a great catch for him.”
“ Whether that was the wind or the (Gilford-Belmont) defense, I don't know, but if he has a great passing day Saturday, they can win this game."
Another coach talked about the battle in the trenches.
"Pelham is better on the lines, but Souhegan showed something in that win over Gilford-Belmont. They got down 14-0 and 28-14, but those kids never panicked. They didn't start complaining to the refs or pointing fingers at one another. They just buckled down and made stops."
"Brayden Hickman and Finley Raudelunas were a big part of that, and with McGrath and Bright, they have great speed on the outside. The biggest match-up in this game is the Pelham offensive line against the Souhegan defensive line.”
"When we played Pelham, we found some weaknesses in their line but couldn't exploit it. We would have tried to if we had seen them again. Robin (Bowkett) will recognize that and go after them.”
Another coach gave his key to the game for Bowkett's team.
"I think Souhegan has to slow down, as crazy as that might sound."
"Sometimes they score too fast, or they get off the field too quickly, and what Pelham does is grind out seven-minute drives. That wears down your defense. Souhegan needs to spread the field with short passes and run Bright to the outside. Slow the pace, work the clock and frustrate Pelham."
We asked all three coaches about the match-up on Saturday.
"Defensively against Pelham, you have to trust your reads. It will take you right to the ball. They aren't going to throw very often, and I believe they think they can push Souhegan up and down the field."
"Souhegan has to tackle well. They let Isaiah Reese and Michael Kitto get extra yards against them last Saturday, and if you do that with Demmons, they'll make you pay. Pelham is an excellent football team, and if they jump out to a 14-0 lead, Souhegan is in more trouble than they were last week.”
"Pelham has to limit the big plays from Souhegan. That is what they do. That is what they thrive on."
"Souhegan has a lot of confidence in their offense, but I think that sometimes hurts them. They seem ok with getting in a shootout.”
“ They barely got out of Gilford with a win, and if not for a tough offsides call against Gilford (Belmont), maybe they don't, but they cannot get into that kind of game with Pelham because Pelham's defense is too good."
"Souhegan is the first team to play Pelham twice, and I think Robin has more up his sleeve than he revealed the first time around. It's going to be an outstanding game. A game that comes down to the final possession."
So who wins it?
"I gotta go with Pelham in a close game."
"I think Souhegan will have their chances late, but I'm going with Pelham."
"I'll go with Pelham if I have to make a pick, but it's going to be a tight game."
My pick: I'm going with Souhegan, who wins it on the game's final drive.