The Keene Blackbirds football team fell to Bishop Guertin, 28-0, in a NHIAA tournament play-in game on Friday night in Keene.
“I thought the kids played hard,” said Keene head coach Linwood Patnode. “They cleaned up some of their mistakes. I’m really proud of the kids.”
“I’m not happy with the results, never am, but I am happy with the progress,” Patnode added. “We have to be happy with the progress we’ve made as a program.”
The game marked the final time that 13 seniors would play on their home field at Keene.
“I just thank them for helping me try to turn this around,” Patnode said. “They set a pretty damn good example for the young guys, and that’s what their role was, especially in a screwy year like this year.”
Bishop Guertin senior Dylan Santosuosso threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the shutout victory.
“I’m always really, really hard on Dylan, but he’s tough and he’s a gamer,” said Bishop Guertin head coach John Trisciani. “He sees things on the field, he’s a pretty smart kid. To a degree, it’s like having another coach on the field.”
“I walked into the game excited,” Santosuosso said. “I’m glad we came up 28-0.”
Penalties and turnovers continuously stalled any momentum that the Keene offense put together.
“It was a little bit reminiscent of last week, but not as bad,” Patnode said.
Keene received the opening kickoff, but, after three unsuccessful runs, the Blackbirds had to punt it away. The punt was extremely short and put Bishop Guertin on the Keene 25-yard line to start their drive.
The Cardinals took advantage of the gift, scoring on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Santosuosso to junior Daniel Fleming to give Bishop Guertin a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Keene’s running game was much more effective on their second drive, getting them into Cardinal territory, but a sack on third and long forced the Blackbirds to punt the ball away.
Bishop Guertin blocked the ensuing punt, again giving them the ball deep in their own territory, this time starting at their own 28.
But, on the very next play, the Blackbirds intercepted Santosuosso to get the ball right back.
Starting deep in their own territory, Keene went right back to their run game, and it continued to be efficient. The Blackbirds ran out the first quarter and continued to keep the ball on the ground, converting on a 4th and 1 to start the second quarter and keep the drive alive.
The Blackbirds ran the ball right up the gut, making a push into Cardinal territory, before coughing up the ball and erasing any momentum that was built up off the interception.
“They turned the ball over absolutely when we shouldn’t have,” Patnode said of his offense. “You can’t turn the ball over like that.”
With 7 minutes remaining in the half, Bishop Guertin took advantage of Santosuosso’s arm, opening the drive with a 27-yard completion to sophomore Matt Santosuosso to put the Cardinals in Blackbirds territory. From there, Keene’s defense locked in, forcing a turnover on downs when Bishop Guertin couldn’t convert a 4th and 15.
At that point, there were only about three minutes left in the half, which forced Keene to turn to their passing game. The Blackbirds couldn’t find their rhythm and punted the ball back to the Cardinals with 1:05 remaining in the half.
A first down pass combined with an illegal participation penalty on the Blackbirds led to a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior Brendan Callahan to give the Cardinals a 14-0 lead with only 36 seconds to go, the score the Cardinals would take to the locker room at the half.
“If you can score right before the half, it’s a big momentum builder,” Trisciani said. “We just try to come up with some chunk plays, knowing we don’t have to get it all at once. Just slow and steady and using the clock well.”
Keene held the Cardinals to a three and out to start the second half, but gave the ball right back after throwing an interception, again giving Bishop Guertin excellent field position.
The Blackbirds defense forced another turnover on downs, but the offense could not find any momentum and, after a nice punt return, Bishop Guertin got the back ball deep into Keene territory — again — with less than three minutes left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals’ drive took the game to the final frame and scored on a 4th and goal to take a 21-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Blackbirds responded with a punt return that put them into Cardinal territory, but immediately gave the ball away on an interception.
Bishop Guertin effectively ran the clock out from there, with Santosuosso running the ball in, finalizing the victory to advance in the state tournament.
Bishop Guertin’s next game is yet to be announced, but could be decided Saturday night.