Just finished writing my game story for today's D-II title game between BG and Winnacunnet. Here it is:
Mike Kelly scored three touchdowns, and the Bishop Guertin Cardinals won their fifth Division II title in the last six years, defeating Winnacunnet 31-0 on Saturday at Stellos Stadium in Nashua. Kelly, who sat out last week’s D-II semi-final game against Alvirne, scored a touchdown on a run, on a catch, and also on a punt return. This, however, was a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate.
The game was scoreless at the end of the first quarter of play. Winnacunnet had two good scoring chances in the first frame, with the first coming on the game’s initial drive. It was fourth down and five on the BG 35 yard line. Rather than going for it, the Warriors elected to punt the ball away. Their other scoring chance came two possessions later. This time it was third down and eight for Coach Auffant’s squad at the Guertin 43. Winnacunnet receiver Harry Knowles ran a slant pattern, was wide open. Quarterback Steve Cronan hit him right in the hands, but Knowles dropped the ball, and the Warrior’s chance at a 6-0 lead.
The Cardinals also had a pair of first half scoring chances that didn’t come to fruition. On their first drive, following a 30 yard catch by Kelly, Winnacunnet forced and then recovered the fumble on their own 35 yard line. Two possessions later, early in the second quarter, BG once again coughed up the football. Senior running back Adam Hall, ran for a 17 yard gain, then fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Mike Trainor for Winnacunnet.
It remained scoreless until just 2:51 were left in the second quarter. That’s when Cardinals quarterback Steve Cuipa found Kelly sprinting downfield for a 46 yard touchdown pass. The extra point was good by junior kicker Ryan Card, and it was 7-0 Bishop Guertin.
In the last two minutes of the first half, Winnacunnet was only down one score and must have been feeling pretty good. They were lining up to punt the ball away on their own 30 with about a minute left. But the snap went over the head of the Warrior’s punter, and the fumble was recovered by Guertin on the Winnacunnet 26. With 47.8 seconds to go second quarter, Card drilled a 39 yard field goal to make it 10-0, and a two score lead at the half for the Cardinals.
It was a hard fought first half, for both squads. “We were lucky to be up 10-0 at halftime,” said Bishop Guertin Head Coach Tony Johnson. “This game was much more difficult than the score indicates.”
In the third quarter, the Warriors once again turned the ball over deep in their own end. On an option play, Cronan ran the ball up the middle. After gaining three yards, he fumbled the ball and BG recovered it on the Winnacunnet 20 yard line. Two plays later Kelley took the handoff from Cuipa and ran it in 20 yards for the score and it was 17-0 Cardinals with seven minutes to play in the third frame.
On the ensuing drive, Kelly made yet another big play for Bishop Guertin. Winnacunnet punted the ball away deep in their own territory. Kelley then took the punt return 60 yards for the touchdown, and his third score of the ballgame. It was now 24-0 BG with 5:01 left in the third.
The next possession was the Warrior’s last chance to make it a ballgame. They were on their own 19 yard line, but Cronan threw a deep ball intended for Knowles. He had open field in front of him, and it would have likely been an 81 yard touchdown catch, but once again the ball went through his hands incomplete. The possession resulted in yet another punt for Winnacunnet.
“Those are balls that he has been catching all year long for us,” said Warriors Head Coach Ron Auffant.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Guertin put the nail in the Winnacunnet coffin. Following a turnover on downs by the Warriors, which gave BG possession on their own 47, Hall carried the ball 38 yards for the touchdown. He was hit by a Warrior defender near the line of scrimmage, but made a nifty spin move off of it and then ran it in for the TD. He finished the game with 141 rushing yards on 18 carries. The majority of that work came in the first half, when he had 16 carries for 103 yards. That made it a 31-0 game with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter.
Kelly’s huge game is even more impressive, because of his health. Not only did he not play last week vs. Alvirne due to a sore ankle, but up until a couple days ago his status for this game was still up in the air.
“He’s a threat to score every single time,” Coach Johnson remarked. “On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I didn’t think we would have him back for this game.”
It was a tough game for Cronan and the Winnacunnet offense. Cronan managed to run for just -2 yards and only passed for 40 yards. One bright spot was senior running back Jason Busfield, who had 56 rushing yards on 11 carries, including a 30 yard run in the first half. This is a Warrior offense however, that averages over 30 points per game on the season. So the fact that they were held scoreless is a big deal.
“Their defensive front against out offensive line was the biggest problem,” explained Auffant.
Still, Winnacunnet has to be happy with their season, and their 8-4 overall record. They earned one of the program’s biggest wins last week, by defeating Exeter 17-10 in the semi-finals.
Bishop Guertin meanwhile, finishes the season 12-0 and wins their second D-II title in a row and fifth championship in the last six years. But according to Coach Johnson, this year’s squad is as good as it gets.
“This year’s team is the best team I’ve ever coached,” he proudly admitted after the game.
It would be very difficult for anyone to argue with that statement.
BG — Mike Kelly 46 pass from Steve Cuipa (Ryan Card kick), 2:51
BG — Card 39 FG, 47.8
BG — Kelly 20 run, (Card kick), 7:00
BG — Kelly 60 punt return, (Card kick), 5:01
BG — Hall 38 run, (Card kick), 10:08
RUSHING: BG — Adam Hall 18-141, Mike Kelly 1-20, Nick Phillips 5-15, Steve Cuipa 2-7 Tom Barrile 1-4. W – Jason Busfield 11-56, Bret Taylor 2-9, Steve Cronan 7- -2
PASSING: BG — Cuipa 3-7 89, 1-0. Cronan 7-13 40, 0-0.
RECEIVING: BG— Kelley 2-81, Scott St. Lawrence 1-8. W – Harry Knowles 2-14, Busfield 3-13, Jesse Gould 2-13.
Congrats to Salem and Inter-Lakes for winning D-I and D-VI, respectively. From the sounds of it, the Salem/North game was a thriller. Would have been nice to have that game and the D-II game played back to back and on a neutral field so fans could see both on the same day. Clearly Salem, North and Central are all excellent teams and VERY close as far as how good they are. And fans can only speculate about how each of those three teams would do against BG. And I know BG played Central and Salem in scrimmages, but c'mon people. They were just scrimmages and they were a LONG time ago.
Oh yeah, and back to the BG/Winnacunnet game again for just a second. I said earlier in the week that BG was not a disciplined team and got some flack for it. This afternoon BG had eight penalties, six in the first half. And after one of those penalties, I couldn't help but chuckle when one of the BG assistant coaches said, "We're not disciplined." I'm not sayin'...I'm just sayin'.
Feel free to discuss either game in here, folks.