NATE EMERSON looks for running room against Hanover on Friday night. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 07, 2013NORTH CONWAY — With a tight battle already ensuing for the second playoff spot in the new Division II North Conference, the Kennett football Eagles did themselves a world of good at Homecoming on Friday, Oct. 4.
For the second week in a row, the Eagles defeated one of the three other teams battling for that spot and took a big step forward in the quest for a playoff berth.
"The focus has been these two weeks," coach Mike Holderman said. "We knew these two were crucial to get if we want to get where we want to go.
"The boys really played a great game," the Eagle coach continued after Kennett's 30-8 handling of Hanover. "It was a more complete game than last week."
However, out of the gate, it looked like the Marauders wanted to handle things themselves, as the visitors ate up most of the first quarter clock at Gary Millen Stadium.
"They did a great job working the clock, keeping the ball out of our hands," Holderman said. "We couldn't get them off the field.
"But the defense bent, but it didn't break," Holderman added. "They played a great game."
The opening drive, which ate more than nine minutes off the clock, was done in small pieces, as the Eagles gave up short runs, including on two crucial fourth and one situations where the Eagles had a chance to get the ball back.
The Marauders eventually got the ball all the way to the nine yard line and that's when the Kennett defense took over. Nate Arnold had back-to-back sacks, getting help from Nick Sherwood on one of them, pushing the Mrauders all the way back to the 30. A fourth down pass came up incomplete and the Eagles got the ball back at the 21 yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, Will Pollard hit Nate Emerson over the middle and the sophomore bolted down the field, outrunning the Marauder defenders and racing into the end zone for the 79-yard touchdown play with 2:42 to go in the first quarter. Nate Arnold ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead for the Eagles after just one offensive series.
After dominating the clock on their first drive, the Marauders faltered on the second drive, fumbling the ball on the third play from scrimmage. Axel Olson pounced on the ball and got the Eagles the ball back as the first quarter closed down.
The Eagles were unable to get a first down as the second quarter opened and Hanover got the ball back. The Marauders were able to convert a pair of fourth and two situations, but, the Eagle defense came back strong, with Steve Cotton and Arnold getting in the back field to stop a run and Sherwood sacking the Hanover quarterback for a 14-yard loss, forcing a punt.
The Eagles were able to move the bal up the field, with Pollard, Ryan Stevens and Arnold doing the carrying across midfield. Arnold picked up a big first down on third and two and Pollard followed by hitting Nick Graziano for 17 yards. After a penalty, the Eagles faced third and 15 at the 33. A pass to Arnold got 1o of those yards and another pass to Arnold got the Eagles a first down at the 17. After an Emerson run netted two yards and the clock ticked down to 7.9 seconds, Pollard hit Arnold with a quick pass and the junior back did the rest, weaving through the defense and scoring as the clock run out. Graziano then caught the two-point conversion from Pollard for a 16-0 halftime lead for the Eagles.
Both teams punted on their first possessions of the second half. Kennett's second drive moved the ball up the field, Theo Scarlett and Olson catching passes, but Scarlett was hurt on his reception and had to leave the game and the drive eventually petered out, with an incomplete pass on fourth down giving Hanover the ball back. However, Arnold and Cotton again got in the backfield and wreaked some more havoc, forcing Hanover to punt again.
Pollard hit Graziano with a big pass on the ensuing drive, getting the ball to the 29 as the clock ran out on the third quarter with the Eagles still up 16-0.
Kennett needed just four plays to get in the end zone, as Emerson caught a screen pass on fourth and four and ran in from 23 yards out for the score. Graziano caught the two-point conversion and Kennett took the 24-0 lead with 10:23 to play in the game.
Hanover was finally able to solve the Kennett offense on the next drive, as the Marauders moved up the field. A pass interference call against the Eagles helped the Marauder drive, but despite a sack from Shane O'Neil, Hanover found the end zone with 7:26 to go and converted the two-point conversion for a 24-8 score.
Kennett responded by simply eating up more than six minutes on the clock, with Tommy Donovan, Emerson, Pollard, Arnold and Stevens all carrying the ball. Emerson then snagged a Pollard pass from six yards out with 1:12 to go, giving Kennett the 30-8 lead, which held up for the final minute.
"There are no individuals on this team," Holderman said, praising the "team first" attitude the athletes have taken in finding success this season. He noted this was key when Scarlett went down with his injury.
"We've dealt with this for four years, there's always something," Holderman said. "It's always been the next guy up. Axel (Olson) did a nice job stepping in at tight end and we made some defensive adjustments to cover."
Holderman also praised the work of his two Nates, Arnold and Emerson.
"Nate Arnold, he was everywhere," Holderman said. "That's what we expect from him.
"And Nate Emerson is physical and tough and strong as an ox," Holderman continued. "He tells us 'keep feeding me.'"
The Eagles will now turn their attention to Windham, who will be in town on Friday, Oct. 11, for a 7 p.m. matchup at Gary Millen Stadium. Last season the Jaguars rolled to a 51-0 win over the Eagles.
"This is one we've had circled for a year," Holderman said. "We have a little chip on our shoulder t his week. We'll be ready for them."
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com