Pelham~Windham Sports

11-0 Pythons Win State Title over Gilford

by Tommy Gates

Bruce Vieira and the State Champ Trophy get a celebration ride after the Pythons victory.

It took 15 years of hard work, but last Saturday afternoon at Harris Family Field in Pelham, Python football coach Tom Babaian strode out to the 50-yard line at around 3:10 p.m. with co-captains Bruce Viera, Max Roth and Jimmy Mostone and claimed the Division V championship plaque from NHIAA board member Pat Corbin before about 1,000 crazy and very loud Python fans celebrating defeating the 9 - 2 Gilford Golden Eagles 21 - 7 in the title game.

There was cause for celebration from the chanting fans, as Pelham did what no other Python team had done in their first 14 years of having the football program in Pelham, and that was to go undefeated 11-0 and bring home the schools first state title in football.  Gilford might have held Pelhams All-Everything halfback, junior Bruce Viera, to just 16 yards on the ground in the teams first meeting two weeks ago in a 13 - 12 Pelham win, but it didnt take Viera long to state his case in the title game Saturday.

Tyler Gantt breaks up a Gilford scoring attempt in the fourth quarter.

After winning the coin flip and deciding to receive the ball to start the second half, Pelhams defense stuffed Gilford on three straight down to start the game and took over following a punt to their own 38-yard line. Viera, quarterback Joey DeAngelo, and fullback Conor McColgen took the ball down to Gilfords 31-tard line on six carries before Viera broke through a crease in the Golden Eagle line, and dashed 31 yards for the games first score with 7:54 left in the opening frame.

Senior Dan Trainor drilled the first of three extra points on the day, and Pelham had their early 7 - 0 lead. Gilford knotted the score early in the second quarter as they used a fake punt to pick up a first down in Python territory, and then cashed in on a facemask penalty and a holding penalty to give them a first down at Pelhams 31-yard line and five plays later, Gilford quarterback, Colby Athanas scored from three yards out and Chris Franklin booted the extra point to knot it up at 7 - 7 with 7:50 left before halftime.

Python Junior Bruce Vieira turns on the speed as he breaks though the Golden Eagle line at the beginning of the run that culminated with the first score of the game.

Bruce Viera got a nice return all the way back to Pelhams 48-yard line and he and sophomore Josh Luciano would take the ball down to Gilfords 31-yard line on the next four carries between them. Luciano owned two of the biggest plays in the game over the last six minutes of the first half, as he took a handoff from DeAngelo and zipped 31 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:32 left before the break.

Trainors second extra point now gave Pelham a 14 - 7 advantage. Gilford marched down the field in the closing seconds of the second quarter, and Luciano broke up a couple passes as did Tyler Gantt, and Max Roth, Conor McColgan and Davie Wesson were putting some heated pressure on Athanas in the Golden Eagle backfield.

Python Junior Bruce Vieira turns on the speed as he breaks though the Golden Eagle line at the beginning of the run that culminated with the first score of the game.

With only 30 seconds left and Gilford forced with a fourth down and four to go at Pelhams 24-yard line, the Golden Eagles had a pass dropped at the Python 18-yard line right in front of this reporter, but the officials banded together and said that it was a good catch, which prompted some loud booing from the Pelham fans and all of the witnesses on the sideline who saw the dropped pass. After a run for five yards and two incomplete passes, Luciano picked off an Athanas pass in the end zone on fourth down to let Pelham enjoy a 14 - 7 lead at halftime.

Pelham has been a very good second-half team all season, as coach Babaian bands together with his coaches and troops at halftime to make some valuable changes in his game plan and last Saturday afternoon was no different.

The Python band braved the cold and treated the fans to music at halftime and throughout the game.

Pelhams Viera returned the second half kickoff to the Pythons 41-yard line, and Pelham would chew up the clock with a 13-play drive that ended on Gilfords 12-yard line. Gilfor4d took over and picked up one first down, but went for another first down on fourth and one from their own 34-yard line, but Max Roth exploded into the backfield and dropped the runner for a loss.

Gilford got the ball back two plays later on a Pelham fumble at the Golden Eagle 19-yard line, but Roth and Chris Lombard at the Gilford 27 and gave them the ball back. Pelham fumbled the ball again on the next play at Gilfords 21-yard line, and two plays later Roth was recovering the ball on another fumble at the Gilford 32-yard line.

Senior Max Roth (without helmet) listens to Coach Babaian making game plan adjustments at half time as Assistant Coach Archie Babaian watches.

Luciano and Viera ran the ball down to Gilfords 15-yard line, before the Golden Eagles got the ball back, but Roth and Wayne Parisi were in the backfield almost at will. Roth sacked Colby Athanas for an eight-yard loss on first down and Athanas tried to throw a screen pass to Eric Dean on second down, but Parisi shot into the Gilford backfield and stripped Dean of the ball and fell on it for Pelham on the two-yard line.

On the first play, DeAngelo handed off to Viera, as he scored for the second time in the game and Trainors third extra point inh as many attempts gave Pelham a 21 - 7 cushion with 7:05 left in the game.Gilford last got out to Pelhams 47-yard line in the final minute but their season ended when Conor McColgan sacked Athanas on fourth down. Viera picked up his last 20 yards on the last two carries, and DeAngelo knelt on the ball for the last remaining seconds as all the team and fans went berserk as the clock ticked down the final seconds.

The Pelham fans came out in force to encourage their hometown team. The stands were full for this great victory.

Babaian ran over to hug his father and assistant coach Archie Babaian. And then he gave big hugs to captains Viera and Roth as the celebration was just starting on the Pelham side of the field. The Pythons had gone for 15 years without a state championship, but this was finally their day in the sun.

Viera ended up with 134 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns, giving him 31 scores for the year to go along with 1,429 for the season. The amazing thing about this very small football team is that Pelham will only lose co-captain Max Roth, co-captain Jimmy Mostone (who was injured earlier in the season), running back Tyler Gant, end Craig Moreau, defensive back Kyle Sharpe, and kicker Danny Trainor, with everyone else returning in August to try and surpass what this 11 - 0 team this season. 

Every one needs to touch the champion plaque, and celebrate the win.

Athlete Accolades Wanted!

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