FAIR HAVEN -- Bellows Falls Terrier coach Bob Lockerby just wanted to prove his Terriers belonged in Division II.
The Terriers opened eyes all around the state when they shocked defending Division II champion Fair Haven, 20-14, Friday in a football season opener at Thomas E. LaPlaca Field.
What was supposed to be a coronation for the Slaters turned into what might be their worst nightmare as Bellows Falls never trailed and beat the Slaters at their own game.
It was a 43-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ethan Illingworth to Mike LeBeau that was the winning touchdown. The play came just into the fourth period with the Slater defense up close to stop the run.
"This is exciting; when you come to Fair Haven and win a football game it’s really something," said Bellows Falls coach Bob Lockerby. "I truly did want this. But what I wanted more than anything was to come here and earn the respect of the league. I’m not even sure that we got the respect that we deserved: we didn’t even have a guy on the Shrine Team and that was hurtful. But I’m just happy that this group of guys was able to do what they did."
The Terriers broke open a tight defensive battle by scoring in the waning moments of the first half. Lockerby and his coaching staff began to find yards off the toss sweep and after mucking it up without a first down through much of the half, the team gained yardage late.
The Terriers seized on the momentum taking the second half kickoff and immediately going on another march. This time they went 60 yards with Zach Rawlings (25 carries 115 yards) the workhorse. But it was the diminutive sophomore QB who powered the ball over the goal line from the 2-yard line to bump the Terrier lead to 13-0 with 8:47 left in the third period.
Fair Haven was able to answer and did so quickly.
The Slaters offense looked anemic in the first half, achieving only one first down and only 45 total yards.
But on the second play of scrimmage in the second half, QB Andrew Reid called his own number and blasted through a hole to ramble 57 yards for the score. The two-point try failed but Fair Haven got on the board, 13-6.
Both defenses rose and it wasn’t until the Terriers took advantage of good field position at the end of the third period and began to drive. On third and long, Illingworth displayed some sleight of hand and dropped back to pass. Out in one-on-one coverage, LeBeau out-jumped the Slater defender, pulled in a fingertip grab and raced the remaining yards for the deciding score. The play covered 43 yards and came with 11:52 left.
Fair Haven had plenty of time but still could not find the consistency on offense the Slaters thrived on last year. Part of it was injuries sustained to linemen but there was also a lot of confusion. To make matters worse, Reid came off the field with leg cramps. That forced new head coach Brian Grady to go to wideout Dakota Euber at QB and the lightning-fast Euber turned the game around.
On his first carry from QB position he faked a handoff and slipped a tackle and was off and flying 63 yards for the touchdown. Euber took it again for the two-point conversion and with 6:02 remaining, it was a game 20-14.
But it was not to be as Fair Haven suffered another loss when Euber was shaken up on a scramble and Reid came back. But there was no more magic left as Reid fired a pair of interceptions later in the game and Bellows Falls held.
"We played pretty good defense and we played with a lot of young guys," Grady said. "I thought the effort was pretty good but we did not execute very well at all in the first half. We’re explosive but we’re not consistent. We can’t wait for the 75-yard run, we’ve got to be able to sustain a drive."
Bellows Falls won the yardage battle 289-259 with 87 coming through the air. Five different backs carried the ball for the Terriers led by Rawling’s game-high 115 yards.
Euber led the Slaters with nine rushes for 101 yards, with Reid adding 97 on six totes. But what stands out is the paltry 39 yards through the air as Reid was 3 for 15 with three interceptions.
Bellows Falls returns home for their first-ever night game next Friday against Rice, while the Slaters go on the road next Friday at Springfield.