Nov. 12—LACONIA — It may have been the Somersworth High School football team's final game in Division IV, and the Hilltoppers made it a memorable one.
Second-seeded Somersworth turned in a strong second half and beat top-seeded Newport 21-7 Saturday in the Division IV championship game played at Laconia High School.
It was Somersworth's third straight Division IV championship. The Hilltoppers are expected to move up to Division III next season.
"Every year it's a different team, different identity," Somersworth coach Jeremy Lambert said. "We knew this group had talent, but we wondered if they had the mental toughness since we lost so many leaders from last year's team. This last game proved that they do. They were resilient because they dealt with a lot of adversity (Saturday)."
The game was tied 7-7 at halftime, but Somersworth (8-1) went in front 13-7 on Tayshawn Sheppard's 15-yard touchdown run with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter. Seth Worrell sealed the win by returning an interception for a touchdown and adding the two-point conversion in the fourth.
Worrell also returned an interception for a TD when Newport beat Somersworth 13-12 during the regular season.
Worrell's TD was set up by a Newport fumble after the Tigers drove to the Somersworth 29-yard line. Kayden Bickford returned the fumble to the Newport 32 and Worrell scored five plays later.
Newport moved the ball to the Somersworth 9-yard line on its ensuing possession, but turned the ball over on downs.
The game featured nine turnovers, six by Newport (8-1).
"There was a lot of hard hitting between two great teams," Lambert said. "Newport was on our doorstep a lot and it seemed like most times we found a way to take the ball away.
"I would like to give credit to Newport. I know they weren't healthy. They had so many good players held together with athletic tape and still gave it everything they had."
Newport took a 7-0 lead on Kyle Ashley's 8-yard TD run plus Tanier Fournier's point-after kick, but Somersworth tied the game when Bickford caught an 11-yard TD pass from Eric Goodrich and Kyle Wilbur added the PAT. The TD came on a fourth-and-goal play.
Somersworth's Carter Morgan was assigned to spy Ashley, but injured his leg early in the game. Freshman Max Dubois replaced Morgan and helped shut down one of the top offensive players in the division.
"We basically used (Dubois) as a fifth linebacker," Lambert said. "It seems like every time we play on this field we have a freshman step up. That kid (Ashley) did everything he possibly could."
It was the 17th state championship for the Somersworth program. The Hilltoppers beat the Tigers 14-6 in last year's Division IV championship game.