By Roger Brown
Souhegan and Plymouth proved to be the best high school football teams in their respective divisions during the regular season, and they proved to be the best in the postseason as well.
Steven Jellison, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound fullback/linebacker, scored four touchdowns to help top-seeded Souhegan raise its record to 11-0 by beating second-seeded Portsmouth, 28-14, in Saturday’s Division III championship game.
Jellison returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown on the game’s third play from scrimmage, and added TD runs of 43, 50 and 34 yards. He finished the contest with 239 yards on 22 carries.
“He ran the ball hard,” Portsmouth quarterback/defensive back Mike Fransoso said. “He didn’t really go down. You gotta gang-tackle him. He’s a big boy.”
Souhegan led 14-0 after one quarter and 21-0 at halftime. Portsmouth, which dropped to 9-2, scored both of its touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Running back Gallagher Hogan scored on a 2-yard run with 9:18 to play, and Fransoso scored on a 2-yard run with 52 seconds left.
It was the second state championship for the Souhegan program, which beat Milford to win the 2004 Division III title.
Top-seeded Plymouth got a scare from second-seeded Laconia, but extended its winning streak to 44 games with a 14-7 triumph in the Division IV championship game.
Plymouth finished its season with an 11-0 record. It was the 17th state championship for Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan, who recorded his 309th career victory.
Laconia (8-3) led 7-0 in the fourth quarter, until Plymouth quarterback Rich Manzi tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Phil Slaughter with 7:55 to play. A missed extra point left the Sachems with a one-point lead.
Plymouth took the lead on Tim Farina’s 15-yard touchdown run with 5:10 to play.
“The boys deserve all the credit,” Lenahan said. “They played hard.”
Laconia’s only touchdown came on a 56-yard run from halfback Christian Birt. It was his 24th touchdown of the season.
Plymouth won nine of the last 11 Division III titles before it dropped to Division IV following the 2007 season.
Four more state championship games will be played Saturday.
Division I: Second-seeded Nashua South (8-3) will play at top-seeded Pinkerton Academy (8-3) in a rematch of last year’s Division I title game won by Pinkerton, 14-2.
South advanced with a 24-9 triumph over third-seeded Manchester Central. Pinkerton scored two late fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat fourth-seeded Londonderry, 19-15, in the semifinals.
Pinkerton has won the last three Division I championships.
Division II: Third-seeded Exeter (8-3) will play at top-seeded Bishop Guertin (9-2).
This will be the fourth-consecutive season these teams have met in the Division II title game. BG won in 2005 and 2006, and Exeter prevailed 14-13 last season.
Division V: Third-seeded St. Thomas (8-2) will play at top-seeded Pelham (10-0).
Pelham is seeking back-to-back championships and will enter the title game with a 21-game winning streak.
St. Thomas coach Rod Wotton, the winningest coach in New England high school football history, has a 331-69-3 record and will be trying to collect his 22nd state championship. Wotton guided St. Thomas to the Division IV championship in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2006. He also won 17 state titles while he was the head coach at Marshwood High School in Eliot, Maine.
Division VI: Third-seeded Campbell (8-3) will play at top-seeded Franklin (10-1).
Campbell upset second-seeded Newport, 14-0, in the semifinals and is seeking the program’s first state title. Franklin has won 10 in a row since opening the season with a non-league loss to Division IV Bishop Brady.