Winnacunnet senior Ben Franzoso has been the most explosive running back in the state this season. When he was sidelined with a groin injury for the past few weeks the Warriors just weren't the same team. On Friday night though he came back, and in a big way. Franzoso ran for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns on his first 10 carries, including a 90 yard TD run and a 74 yard TD.
Winnacunnet went up 28-7 on a 34 yard interception returned for a TD by Ben Gareau with 7:48 left in the 3rd quarter. Since they had a big lead and they knew that if they won they would be right back in Hampton playing this same Bishop Guertin team next they decided to not risk leaving Franzoso in the game. He sat out most of the 2nd half, but still ended up with 229 yards rushing yards on just 15 carries.
"It was tough having to sit watch for the last few games, but I'm pretty much 100% now" Franzoso said after the game. "I just didn't want to think about the groin during the game, because I knew that if I did I would pull it again."
Bishop Guertin actually got on the board first, as senior Nick Marino returned the game's opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. After the extra point it was 7-0 BG.
The Cardinal's lead didn't last for long though. On Winnacunnet's first play from scrimmage Franzoso ran off tackle to the left side, broke it down the sideline and was off to the races for a 74 yard TD. He actually ran into one of his own players in the back field at first but was still able to score.
"Me and Sam (Bonsaint) ran into each other on that play" said Franzoso. He was trying to block someone instead."
Just like that it was all tied up 7-7. There was already 2 touchdowns scored in the game's first 3 plays, as this game had the makings of a shootout early on.
But BG struggled to move the ball on offense, and when they did get inside the WHS 35 yard line they weren't able to cash in on those chances. In the 1st quarter they had the ball 4th down and 3 on the Winnacunnet 31 yard line but fumbled the snap and it was recovered by Warriors lineman Renaldo Gordon.
On Guertin's next drive they got deep inside Winnacunnet territory after a 27 yard screen pass from QB Tommy Hurley to RB Anthony Reale. But then Warriors LB Brandon Gnecco sacked Hurley for a loss of 12 yards and then a BG penalty on 4th down resulted in a turnover on downs for the Cardinals.
Then in the 3rd quarter, with BG still clinging to life down 28-7, they got down to the Winnacunnet 23 yard line before once again turning it over on downs.
Meanwhile on the other side of the ball the Warriors got a 12 yard TD pass from QB IngHao Veasna to WR Ben Gareau. Then on their next possession Franzoso took the hand-off and again ran to the left side, breaking it towards the sideline and running for his second TD of the game. This one was from 90 yards out and made it 21-7 WHS with 2:50 left in the 2nd quarter. Franzoso showed tremendous breakaway speed and also some impressive juke moves to make BG defenders miss.
"Ben makes a big difference for us" said Winnacunnet head coach Ron Auffant. "He's a big play threat. We were real careful with him though and wanted to shut him down in the 2nd half."
Gareau then made his INT returned for a TD early in the 3rd quarter. BG's offense was held scoreless until :50 left in the game, when third string QB Drew Sanborn completed a 45 yard TD pass to Aidan Loftus.
You have to give the Winnacunnet defense a lot of credit for shutting down the BG offense in this game. Jordan Cuttng, Nyles Connor, Bonsaint, Gnecco, Colin Witt and Gordon are stepped up big time for the Warriors on 'D'.
The D-II playoffs are now set. Next Saturday #1 seed Winnacunnet will host #4 seed BG, and in the other semi-final #2 seed Keene will host #3 seed Bedford.