SALEM, N.H. — Forget the rain, forget the cold and forget that he was covered, head to toe, in a thick layer of mud. Jason Martinez was the happiest man in the state of New Hampshire last night.
“I love this!” Martinez said with a smile, looking up into the rain. “This is great, it’s like playing backyard football when I was a kid. This was my last game, and to go out like this is pretty amazing. We wanted to prove ourselves out there and we did it.”
Martinez and his Blue Devil mates made quite a statement in their 2013 finale.
After falling behind by seven points on the first play of the game, Salem surged back to score the next 50 points and rolled to a 50-21 victory over Lawrence High in their Thanksgiving eve matchup last night.
“Coach (Rob Pike) told us the turkey was going to taste a lot better if we won this,” said tight end/linebacker Austin Homsey. “After so many losses, it feels so much better to go out with a victory. Jason did his job tonight and was just great.”
Martinez, a senior, closed out his career in tremendous fashion.
The running back finished the night with an eye-popping 222 yards on just 19 carries, 209 of those yards and both of his touchdowns in the first half as the Blue Devils built a 35-7 lead. He also caught a 48-yard pass to set up another score. He carried just twice in the second half.
“I sure felt like I was (in the zone),” said Martinez. “I just felt amazing. We wanted to show Massachusetts that New Hampshire can play some football too, and it worked out pretty well.”
Lawrence started with a bang, as Rainier Almonte took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage and broke free for a 56-yard touchdown.
“After that touchdown, we were all looking at each other smiling because we knew we could play in the game,” said Homsey. “We knew Lawrence was dangerous. But this was a lot more important than just a regular season game. We were confident.”
It took Salem just seven plays to respond, with Martinez breaking a 40-yard run to set up a 16-yard score by junior Josh Rodriguez.
The Lancers looked poised to retake the lead, driving to the Blue Devil 5-yard line, but Salem forced an incomplete pass on fourth down. Salem then marched the length of the field with Martinez scoring a 6-yard touchdown to put his team in the lead.
Lawrence again marched down the field, moving to the Salem 8-yard line before the Blue Devils once again stood tough and forced incomplete passes on third and fourth down.
That kicked off a huge Salem run of three touchdowns in a span of 1:46. First, Rodriguez scored from 13 yards out, then a Bryce Haynes interception turned into a Martinez 81-yard touchdown two plays later. On the first play of the following drive, Matthew Ayotte picked off a pass and four plays after John Cerretani hit Homsey for a 5-yard touchdown with four seconds left until halftime.
“Those two goal line stands were huge momentum shifters,” said Homsey. “Something like that always changes the game. Then when you have backs as good as Jason and Josh, a lot can happen.”
By the time the second half started, Salem had begun subbing in backups, but still managed two more touchdowns, one by sophomore Doug Maroun.
It was a sweet way to cap off a turnaround season that saw the Blue Devils go from winless in 2012 (and 16 straight losses overall) to 4-5 this year. The Blue Devils won three of their last four games under first-year coach Rob Pike, the third Salem coach in the last three years.
“From last year to this year it was just a whole new feeling,” said Martinez. “We were focused and really close. It feels great to finish my career like this.”
Salem 50, Lawrence 21
Salem (4-5): 7 28 8 7 — 50
Lawrence (3-7): 7 0 0 14 — 21
L — Rainier Almonte 56 run (Eddie Cabrera kick), 11:47
S — Josh Rodriguez 16 run (Chris Sheikhabdou kick), 8:34
S — Jason Martinez 6 run (Rodriguez run), 10:54
S — Rodriguez 13 run (kick failed), 1:46
S — Martinez 81 run (Austin Homsey pass from John Cerretani), 0:50
S — Homsey 5 pass from Cerretani (kick failed), 0:04
S — Doug Maroun 2 run (Cerretani run), 7:55
S — Jonathan St. Hilaire 2 run (Sheikhabdou kick), 11:04
L — Edison Urena 2 run (Justin Rivera pass from Nelson Valerio), 7:43
L — Rivera 17 pass from Valerio (pass failed), 2:53
RUSHING: Salem (51-502) — Jason Martinez 19-222, Josh Rodriguez 10-93, Zack Liupakka 6-71, Jonathan St. Hilaire 3-65, Johnny Bartose 2-46, Mike Iascone 1-3, Kyle Cashman 1-7, Doug Maroun 3-6, Corey Ortiz 1-0, Mark Foglia 1-(-3), John Cerretani 4-(-8); Lawrence (21-210) — Rainier Almonte 3-76, Kenny Richards 4-45, Christian Valentin 2-37, Nelson Valerio 5-26, Edison Urena 5-13, Mikey Caban 1-18, Eddie Cabrera 1-(-5)
PASSING: Salem — Cerretani 2-4-0, 53; Lawrence — Valerio 7-14-2, 150
RECEIVING: Salem — Martinez 1-48, Austin Homsey 1-5; Lawrence — Justin Rivera 3-88, Luis Crispin 3-62, Almonte 1-0