It's definitely rivalry weekend. Pinkerton vs. Londonderry and Nashua North vs. South last night and Exeter vs. Winnacunnet today. During Saturday's game Winnacunnet just couldn't seem to get their offense clicking. They struggled to move the football throughout the contest and only managed to score 3 points. As a result, Exeter got the win 15-3 to improve to 3-1 in Division I play. The Blue Hawks defense was able to contain Warriors QB Brian Auffant, son of head coach Ron Auffant. Brian Auffant has been playing with a back injury.
"We were limited with on offense with what we can run due to injuries" said Coach Auffant. "Our quarterback isn't at 100%, he hasn't been all year. This could be his last game this year. We'll find out this week. We're hoping it's not a stress fracture."
Brian Auffant was 4/11 passing for 52 yards and 12 rushing yards. He threw 2 interceptions - one led to an Exeter touchdown and the other led to a Blue Hawks field goal. Winnacunnet also fumbled the ball 5 times on either snaps or option pitches.
"If Brian's healthy it would have been a different game" said Coach Auffant.
While the Auffant injury was certainly a factor, you also have to give credit to the Exeter defense. Lots of different guys on Exeter's 'D' stepped up at different times. Lincoln Lawry sacked Auffant late in the game to pretty much seal the win. Jackson Allen had an interception and also a fumble recovery. Ryan Ball made an interception and some great tackles. Mark Cicchini, Neil Vorster, Mitchell Herrington, David Harvey, Andrew Cicchini and Tyler Boudreau all stepped up on defense.
"It was a good, solid win - a conference win" said Exeter head coach Bill Ball (no relation to Ryan Ball). "I have a lot of respect for their program. Christian LaRosa is a tough kid and Auffant's kid is a warrior, out there playing hurt."
Both Auffant interceptions led to Exeter scores. The first one came on a 3rd and 15 play from their own 47 yard line. Auffant's pass was tipped by Herrington and picked off by Allen. From their Exeter went to work grinding out a drive with the run (they did not complete one pass all game). Mark Cicchini ran for 11, Shane Quimby picked up 9, as the Blue Hawks were winning the battle in the trenches. Chris Kelley ran for 18, setting up 1st and goal on the 8 yard line. On 3rd and goal from the 8, Exeter QB Grant LaButte's pass intended for a wide open Matt Oppici was overthrown. Oppici then kicked a 25 yard field goal and it was 3-0 Exeter with 10:39 left in the 2nd quarter.
On Winnacunnet's very next drive Auffant was picked off by Ball. Again, the Blue Hawks went to work with their ground game. Again, it was all 3 guys (Kelley, Cicchini and Quimby) getting carries. Kelley made a crucial 6 yard run on 3rd and 5. Then Cicchini scampered in to the end zone from 18 yards out. The PAT was no good and it was 9-0 Exeter with 4:56 left in the 1st half. That was the score at halftime.
In the 3rd quarter Winnacunnet finally started to move the football. Auffant completed a 16 yard pass to Bailey Nasser on 3rd and 5 from their own 25 yard line. LaRosa (82 yards rushing) made a 15 yard run. But then the drive stalled, and on 3rd and 5 from the Exeter 15 yard line Auffant's pass fell incomplete. Anthony Primavera then kicked a 32 yard field goal, and it was 9-3 Exeter with 3:15 left in the 3rd quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ball returned the kick 83 yards to set up 1st and goal inside the Winnacunnet 10 yard line. However the Blue hawks were called for an illegal block in the back and the touchdown was wiped off the board. Then the Warriors defense stepped up, led by Cody Pierce, Mike Lewis and Derek Clough to force the Blue Hawks to punt. Exeter senior Nicholas Flodstrom absolutely leveled Winnacunnet return man Jordan Keene, and then Flodstrom showed good sportsmanship by helping Keene back up.
The next two drives had a huge impact on the outcome of this game. Winnacunnet had the ball, only down 9-3. As bad as things had been for them offensively they could take the lead with a TD here. Sean Cotter made a great block to free up LaRosa for a 13 yard run. Then Auffant made his biggest pass of the game, an 18 yard completion to Bobby Brown on 3rd and 10 from the Exeter 47 yard line. Then Auffant made another big pass, this time connecting with Jon Carrigan for an 11 yard pickup on 3rd and 10 from the Exeter 30 yard line. But then the Warriors ran the option, and the pitch was fumbled. Allen recovered for the Blue Hawks on their own 20 yard line. That play was huge.
Exeter gets the ball back, and Flodstrom runs it in from 29 yards out for the touchdown. Flodstrom hadn't carried the ball once all game up until the 4th quarter. But on that drive alone he carried it 3 times for 64 yards and a score. Flodstrom finished with 72 yards rushing on 4 carries (all in 4th quarter). So instead of Winnacunnet taking the lead now it was 15-3 Exeter, with just 5:32 left in the game.
"I was giving Kelley a break, Flodstrom had fresh legs" said Coach Ball. "He made the difference in the game."
Winnacunnet ball, trying to make a late comeback. But Auffant was sackd by Lowry, and Mark Cicchini made a nice tackle on the next play. The Warriors were forced to punt. Exeter holds on for the 15-3 win.