June 22, 2018
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Ground game, defense lift Hampden football team past Lawrence

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — All the talk about the Hampden Academy football team so far this fall had been about five-wide offensive sets and pass-happy playcalling.

But when the passing game didn’t deliver in its typical way Friday night, the Broncos went old school.

Isaiah Olson and Matt Martin combined to rush for 236 yards, and the Hampden defense limited Lawrence of Fairfield to just 2.6 yards per carry as the Broncos ground out a 21-13 Class B victory at the Weatherbee Complex.

“We knew we were going to come out and try to run the ball,” said Hampden coach Kevin Canty after the Broncos improved their record to 4-1 with their fourth consecutive victory. “I get tired of people saying we don’t run the ball. We can run the ball.”

Olson, a junior halfback in his first year as a starter, rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, while Martin gained 116 yards on 12 tries from his quarterback slot to go with a first-half touchdown pass to Matt Closson.

Olson and Martin combined for 146 time-consuming rushing yards after a first half when Martin (6-for-20 passing for 103 yards) threw three interceptions, all on downfield deflections.

“We figured coming in that they were going to try to sit back and make me hand the ball off,” said Martin. “In the first half I didn’t throw many good balls, but I handed off to [Olson] tonight and he got the job done.”

Martin and Olson found their rushing success behind the Hampden offensive front of Cam Prescott, Nick Haggan, Alex Hollis, Lucas Kord and Jake Barteaux.

“It was all the line tonight,” said Olson. “For me it’s just once I see that hole that’s where I need to go, there’s no tiptoeing. You get to the hole as hard as you can as fast as you can and that’s when you get yards.”

Linebackers Jeremy Kelsey and Haggan and linemen Barteaux and John Chen led a defensive front that produced five sacks of Lawrence quarterback James Leathers while denying the 2-3 Bulldogs the big play.

“Since we knew they weren’t a great passing team, we stressed and stressed filling your gaps,” said Kelsey. “Honestly I think we have the best run defense in the league. We wanted to make a statement tonight, and we made a statement.”

This game began in shootout mode, with each team scoring during the first five minutes of play.

Hampden scored on its first offensive series when Martin found Closson behind the defense on a flea-flicker play for a 23-yard touchdown strike, but Leathers hit Seth Powers with a 40-yard scoring pass on Lawrence’s next possession to forge a 7-7 tie with 7:20 left in the opening quarter.

But the defenses soon regrouped while the offenses started to struggle, with the teams combining for five first-half turnovers as they remained stalemated at intermission.

Hampden, which threw 15 passes in the first half, stayed on the ground to take the lead for good after receiving the second-half kickoff.

A roughing-the-kicker penalty against Lawrence gave the Broncos a fresh start near midfield, and Martin ran consecutive keepers for 20 yards apiece to set up Olson’s 6-yard scoring run to give Hampden a 13-7 lead with 9:15 left in the third quarter.

The Broncos then marched 86 yards in 12 plays to take a 21-7 lead on a 1-yard run by Olson and a two-point conversion pass from Martin to Austin Spencer with 20.4 seconds left in the quarter.

Again a penalty hurt Lawrence, this time a 15-yard facemask violation that advanced the ball inside the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line.

Dan Marquis soon took a flanker screen pass from Martin down the left sideline 28 yards to the 3, and Olson scored one play later.

But a proud Lawrence club wasn’t without a comeback, taking the ensuing kickoff and marching 66 yards in 15 plays to draw within 21-13 on a 1-yard run by fullback Ethan Powers (23 rushes, 65 yards) with 6:32 left.

The Bulldogs got the ball back at their 20 with 2:37 left and just one time out remaining after a 30-yard field-goal try by Hampden’s Tanner Bisbee missed just wide right.

Lawrence worked the sidelines to churn out three first downs and move into Hampden territory, but a sack of Leathers by Barteaux in the final minute ended the threat.

“It was getting down to the wire,” said Haggan. “It got close, but we pulled it off.”

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