PELHAM — For a moment, it seemed Pelham had found the big play it desperately needed.
Trailing by eight points with under three minutes to play, Pythons quarterback Ian Hoey tossed a screen pass to Charlie Katin, who took off, shook a pair of defenders and scampered 61 yards for a touchdown.
The celebration, however, would be short-lived.
Pelham’s two-point conversion attempt was stuffed and, after a defensive stand, a final Hail Mary was intercepted as the No. 3-seeded Pythons fell to No. 6 Plymouth, 14-12, in the New Hampshire Division 2 quarterfinals on Saturday.
“Their kids just did a better job of execution,” said Pelham head coach Tom Babaian. “Our kids made a few mistakes that we don’t usually make, and it cost us.”
Plymouth (8-2) advances to the Division 2 semifinals to host No. 7 Alvirne, while Pelham finishes the season 7-3.
“I think there probably were (some nerves) early,” said Babaian. “But we’re not going to use any excuses. Plymouth just came out and took it to us from the beginning.”
The Bobcats opened hot, starting the game with a 12-play, 64-yard drive that QB Cody Bannon finished with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Cole Johnston.
Pelham struck right back on its opening drive, going 72 yards on eight plays, the last a Hoey 7-yard TD run. The Pythons’ extra point kick, however, was no good, making the score 7-6.
The defenses then took over. Pelham allowed Plymouth just one more first down and 49 yards over the next 33 minutes of game action. Likewise, the Pythons managed just 89 yards and four first downs over that period against a tough Bobcats defense.
“It was a slug fest,” said Plymouth head coach Chris Sanborn. “We knew Pelham was a very tough team. They may have the best defense in Division 2. We knew it was going to be a dogfight. Just when it looked like we had it, they came back.”
The Bobcats finally broke through with 2:44 to play, when Bannon again found Johnston for a 22-yard touchdown. But Pelham responded with their score, a tremendous effort by Katin to stay on his feet and find the end zone.
The Pythons then forced a turnover on downs, with Nicholas Carroll stuffing a run on fourth-and-1 with 0:42 left. But there would be no final miracle.
Evan Haskins led the Pelham defense with 10 tackles, Katin added eight tackles, Matt Muise had six stops and Carroll recovered a fumble.
“This was a great run this season, but it should have gone further than it did,” said Babaian. “We played the wrong team today. Plymouth did a great job against us today.”
Plymouth 14, Pelham 12
Plymouth (8-2): 7 0 0 7 — 14
Pelham (7-3): 6 0 0 6 — 12
Division 2 Quarterfinals
Plymouth — Cole Johnston 5 pass from Cody Bannon (Pete Wingsted kick), 4:39
Pelham — Ian Hoey 7 run (kick failed), 0:50
Plymouth — Johnston 22 pass from Bannon (Wingsted kick), 2:44
Pelham — Charlie Katin 61 pass from Hoey (pass failed), 2:22
RUSHING: Pelham (19-90) — Charlie Katin 9-43, Matt Muise 3-4, Matt Crowley 5-44, Ian Hoey 2-(-1); Plymouth (48-145) — Cody Bannon 17-76, Joe D’Ambruoso 17-36, Jeff Gaumer 2-(-4), Joe Cleary 10-26, Cale Swanson 2-11
PASSING: Pelham — Hoey 7-13-1, 123; Plymouth — Bannon 5-6-0, 42
RECEIVING: Pelham — Katin 2-54, Mason Fecteau 1-26, Zach Jones 2-25, D. Muise 1-12, Colby Travis 1-6; Plymouth Cole Johnston 4-42
Contact David Willis at DWillis@eagletribune.com.