KENNETT CAPTAINS (l to r) Chris Krug, Nick Massa, Adam Suprenard and Conor McDonald and coach Mike Holderman pose with the Carroll County Cup after defeating Kingswood on Friday night. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 29, 2012NORTH CONWAY — No matter the record of either team, the final game of the season between the Kennett and Kingswood football programs is always a battle, always a game that both teams circle at the beginning of the year as one that they want in their win column.
Recently, however, the Eagles of Kennett have been the dominant team in the rivalry, last losing to the Knights on a muddy McKeen Memorial Field at the old Kennett High School in 2006.
Friday, Oct. 26, was no different, as the Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 37-12 win, keeping the Carroll County Cup in North Conway for another year.
"This game is important to us, regardless of records," Kennett coach Mike Holderman said. "They wanted to go out with a win."
For Kingswood coach Chip Skelley, the final game of the year was a bit different.
"We decided to vote for captains for next year the other day," Skelley said. "We're trying to push the idea that we're starting next year, right now."
Skelley actually announced the results of the captain vote on the field after the game (returning captains Rory Coughlin and Abe DeMaio will be joined by Tom McCullough, John Lemay and Ryan Hamilton), signaling the start of a new season.
"We've got eight months," Skelley said, noting he hoped the kids bought into the offseason program his staff is putting in place. "We're trying to get the kids interested and wanting to do it."
Kennett got off on the right foot, as Devan Bynoe and Nate Arnold carried the ball up the field and Nick Graziano hit Tommy Donovan on a screen pass, push the ball all the way inside the 10 yard line.
However, on second and nine, the Eagles fumbled and Ben Tessier pounced on the loose football to give the Knights their first crack.
However, the Knights couldn't move forward and a sack by Theo Scarlett on third down forced a punt and set the Eagles up in decent position at their 27 yard line. A screen to Chris Krug and a run from Arnold put them at the six and from there, Donovan carried in for the touchdown. Caine Warren booted the extra point and Kennett took a 7-0 lead with 5:23 to go in the first quarter.
The Eagles then recovered an onside kick and ate up most of the rest of the first quarter on a 50-yard drive. The drive didn't start so well, as McCullough got in for a sack on the first play, but runs from Donovan Arnold and Bynoe (including a big fourth down conversion from Donovan) got the ball down the field and Bynoe broke free from 26 yards out for the touchdown with 1:16 to go in the quarter. Warren booted the extra point for the 14-0 lead.
Kingswood got a 24-yard run from Lemay to open their next drive, but the Knights were forced to punt a few plays later, opening up the second quarter by giving the ball back to the Eagles.
McCullough came up with two big stops on second and third down, forcing Kennett to punt the ball away and the Knights had another crack at it. This time, Lemay and Dan Eldridge picked up first downs, but a sack by Scarlett on third and long and a fumble on fourth down, recovered by Scarlett, gave the Eagles position near midfield.
Graziano hit John Saxby with a pass on first down and hit Krug on first and 10 at the 28, picking up 25 yards to the three. However, on the next play the ball was fumbled and Cody Nason recovered for Kingswood.
The Knights were unable to get a first down and punted away and the Eagles quickly marched down the field, with Graziano hitting Bynoe for 22 yards on first down and then completing passes to Krug and Donovan before Conor McDonald carried in from one yard out with 35 seconds to go in the half. Warren booted his third extra point and Kennett had a 21-0 lead at the break.
Kingswood tried a little trickery on the first drive of the second half, faking a punt on fourth down, but Arnold got in the backfield and made the stop, giving the Knights the ball at the 23. A penalty backed the ball up to the 34, but Bynoe didn't mind, as he broke loose for the touchdown with 9:33 to go in the quarter. Warren's extra point didn't go through and it stood 27-0 for the Eagles.
Jacob Cameron got a sack on the first play of the next possession for Kingswood and the Knights punted away. Although the Eagles couldn't get a first down, Warren did boot a 38-yard field goal for a 30-0 lead.
Kingswood was finally able to get the ball moving in the right direction on the next drive, as Tony Ruiz and Lemay carried the ball on the ground and Tessier caught an 18-yard pass on third and 14 to set the Knights up inside their own 20. Tessier and Ruiz carried down to the three and Tessier went in for a touchdown with 1:47 to go in the third. The Eagles did stop the two-point conversion, but the Knights were on the board 30-6.
A strong kick return from Bynoe set the Eagles up at the 47 and a halfback option pass from Donovan to quarterback Will Pollard moved the Eagles to the five-yard line, closing out the quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Pollard found Saxby in the corner of the end zone for a six-yard strike and Warren booted the extra point for a 37-6 lead.
Kingswood answered right back, with carries for Devon Mix and Tessier moving the ball up the field to the three yard line and senior Cody Nason carried in from there for the touchdown with 8:14 to go, making it 37-12.
Neither team was able to get anything going after that score and the final eight minutes played out with the Eagles taking the championship.
Holderman was able to get injured running back Nick Massa on the field for two kneel-down plays at the end of the game. Massa played in just three games this season after racking up more than 1,000 yards last year and the crowd gave him a nice ovation when he took the field for the final plays.
"He's been the face of this program for the last few years," Holderman said. "And everybody we plays knows it. I was happy he was able to get out there with his friends."
Holderman also had words of praise for McDonald, who moved all over the field in his senior campaign, filling in for injured teammates.
"He said, whatever you want me to do for us to be better, I'll do it," Holderman said. "He's been the face of the defense for the last three years."
Holderman also pointed out Warren as a standout in his final game. The senior had not played football before this year, but the Eagle coach said he was itching for a field goal attempt while on the sidelines.
"For a kid who never played football before, he did a great job," Holderman said. "He was a pleasure to be around.
"I'm sad to see these kids go," Holderman added. "I'm really going to miss these kids."
For the game, Holderman praised his offensive line for creating the holes and the defense for holding tight.
Skelley said it was great to see his kids stay in the game, fighting until the very end.
"You are here as a coach for life lessons, teaching the kids how to behave in situations," Skelley said. "Team sports do that so well.
"You've got to learn how to win and learn how to lose and grow from it," he added.
Kennett finished at 4-5 on the season, while the Knights ended at 0-9. Both teams will be competing in the new Division II next year. However, they will be in different conferences. Kennett is in the North Conference with Plymouth, Hanover, Laconia and Lebanon, while Kingswood is in the Central Conference with Portsmouth, Pembroke, Merrimack Valley and St. Thomas.
Despite being in different conferences, the two teams will meet again next year (each school gets five games out of its conference) for their traditional Carroll County championship matchup.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126