Friday, September 3, 2010
Winnacunnet Over North in OT
What a way to kickoff week 1 of the NH high school football season! Winnacunnet was down 21-0 to Nashua North in the second quarter tonight at Stellos Stadium. But the Warriors make a furious comeback and win it 27-21 in overtime. Great football game, with two very good football teams.
Here's the recap of that game, as well as a recap of Souhegan's 34-19 win over Londonderry. Londonderry led that game 19-0, but then Souhegan scored the game's final 34 points.
2 games. 2 comebacks. 1 night. 0 hurricanes.
Winnacunnet 27 Nashua North 21 (OT)
"This was a huge statement game for us" said Winnacunnet senior quarterback Steve Cronan after leading his team to a big win.
Nashua North was playing at home. They were my #2 ranked team in the state (only behind Salem). And with just a minute and a half left in the second quarter the Titans were up 21-0. They were in complete control of the game. Their defensive line was dominating the Winnacunnet o-line, as Cronan had nowhere to go with the football and was sacked 5 times on the game. And on offense, North's speed and athleticism was just too much fr the Warriors to handle.
Coach Auffant's team showed however that you can NEVER count them out of a game.
"What I took from today was that our kids have heart and they deal with adversity well."
Cronan ran in a touchdown from 3 yards out in overtime to win it. At first he tried to run it up the middle, but he was met by a couple of North linemen. He then shifted gears, bounced it to the outside, and then had a clear path to the end zone. He was looking left. The whole defense shifted left. But he ran right. Great play. Game over.
Once he scored the Winnacunnet sideline jumped up and stormed the field in jubilation. They had just beaten the team ranked (by some) as the #1 team in the state. As the Warrior players headed to the locker room, they yelled things out like, "Who's #1 now?"
There were 2 key plays in the Winnacunnet comeback: an interception and a roughing the kicker penalty. The interception was the turning point in the game. It came at a time when North had all of the momentum in the world on their side. They had taken a 21-0 lead off a 2 yard touchdown run by Andre Williams and followed that up with a 2 point conversion as QB Brandon Karkhanis found Javon Williams (no relation to Andre) for the score. On the ensuing Winnacunnet possession Cronan was intercepted by Andre Williams (very good 2 way player). It was at this time that it looked like North was in complete control of the game and Winnacunnet had no shat at a comeback. Ironically, this is also the exact point when the momentum COMPLETELY shifted to the Warriors.
The Williams interception gave North the ball on their own 4 yard line. Karkhanis dropped back to pass. Winnacunent got some good pressure on him, and the receivers were also covered well. Karkhanis had nowhere to go with the football. But instea dof throwing it away or running with it he tried to force a pass in to one of his receivers. Winnacunnet DB Michael Kean made a great play to cut in front of the receiver and intercept the pass. The Warriors now had the ball first and 10 on the North 6 yard line. On the very next play Mike Trainor ran it in for the touchdown. And just like that the momentum was on the visitor's sideline.
Still down by 2 scores, Winnacunnet had to keep that momentum going if they wanted to complete the comeback. Senior running back Bret Taylor made it happen with a 44 yard run to the North 36. North's defense then stepped up. They sacked Cronan for a 5th time on the game, as the Titan defensive line continued to impress.
Winnacunnet was forced to punt and hand the momentum back over to the boys from Nashua...right? Wrong.
That's when North was called for the roughing the kicker penalty. Instead of Winnacunnet punting to North, and North getting the ball around their own 40 Winnacunnet received a first down with the penalty, keeping possession and was now on the North 27 yard line. What a HUGE difference!
Just like the Kean interception led to a Winnacunnet touchdown, so did the rouching the kicker call. Trainor carried the ball fr 18 yards to set up first and goal Winnacunnet on the North 9. Three plays later Trainor scored his second touchdown of the game, running it in from 1 yard out. North now led just 21-14. And there was still plenty of time left for the warriors to get a another score (still 7:36 left in the 3rd quarter).
Winnacunnet got the tying touchdown on a 5 yard run by Ben Fee. The play call was a bold move by the Warriors. It was 4th and goal on the 5 and Winnacunnet was down 221-14 with 2:09 left in the 3rd quarter. Still plenty of time to play, and from 5 yards out they could have elected to go with a field goal. Instead they gambled, and it paid off.
Winnacunnet's defense was big in the second half, holding the high powered North offense scoreless the entire second half and also shut them down in overtime.
"Our defense in the second half was the key" explained Winnacunnet Head Coach Ron Auffant. They really stepped up for us."
Karkhanis threw a costly interception, but he finished the game 13/18 passing for 203 yards and a touchdown. Cronan ran for 77 yards and scored the game winning TD. North wideout Javon Williams (#1 ranked basketball player in NH Class of 2012) played his first ever high school football game last night. In his first play he made a 27 yard catch, and finished the contest with 3 catches for 35 yards.
Also for North, Andre Williams tallied 44 receiving yards and 35 rushing yards and a TD. Senior Adam Leith caught 5 balls for 57 yards while also serving as the team's punter. And Jahmar Gathright had 66 rushing yards to go with 46 receiving yards. Williams and Gathright are two of the top 2 way players in the state, as both players are also very valuable to their team on defense.
After seeing both BG and Winnacunnet play now, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Warriors win the Division II title. I would say right now either team could win it. It should be an all out battle when those 2 teams meet.
I still think North is one of the top 3 or 4 teams in D-I. These cross-division games don't count towards the standings, so it's tough to know what exactly to take away from them.
Winnacunnet used a running back by committee approach. Cronan rushed for 77 yards, Taylor rushed for 55, Fee went for 49 and Trainor ran for 39 yards.
John Murphy and Zach Hunnewell give the Titans a dominant 1-2 punch on the offensive line, providing a nice combination of size and strength.
Let's now look at the last 3 games Winnacunnet has played. They beat Exeter in the D-II semi-finals last year. That was arguably the biggest win in program history. Then in the title game they gave BG a better game than anyone else had all year, and that was a BG team that was the most dominant NHIAA squad in recent memory. And now they beat North in OT, a team some have ranked as the #1 team in the state.
"This was a big win for our program" beamed a content Auffant.
How long do we have to wait to see BG and Winnacunnet play?
Souhegan 34 Londonderry 19
This game kicked off at 5, and my game (North/Winnacunnet) didn't start until 7. So I figured I'd be able to catch at least the first half over at Lancer field before scooting over to Stellos.
Due to continuing traffic issues on 93-N, there was only 5 minutes left in the first quarter when I got to Londonderry. The Lancers had already built a 13-0 lead, thanks to a 73 yard interception return, and a wacky opening kickoff.
Londonderry kicked it off, but it was a VERY short kick. It did however, stay up in the air long enough for the Lancer players to get downfield. The Sabers were slow to react, and Londonderry recovered it on the Souhegan 29 yard line. Junior running back Sean O'Gorman ran in the touchdown, and he also ran it in after DB Connor Richard picked off Souhegan QB Mike Luks.
It was 13-0 at the half. Both teams had 2 chances inside their opponent's 30 in the first half. Londonderry was 2/2, while Souhegan went 0/2 (2 turnovers).
Converting drives into TD's when you get deep into your opponent's territory is a BIG key to winning in high school football. The Sabers didn't do it in the first half. They did that and then some in the second.
Souhegan made their run, but not until after Londonderry added to their lead. The Lancers got the ball first in the second half, and QB Ian McMullen threw a 62 yard pass to WR Nick Martinez to put the ball on the Souhegan 4 yard line. O'Gorman then picked up his 3rd rushing TD of the game and it was 19-0.
Souhegan then scored the next 34 point unanswered to win it.