CAPTAINS (l to r) Nate Arnold, Nick Graziano and Jake Cameron and coach Vaughn Beckwith celebrate Kennett's North Conference championship on Saturday. Jonathan Benton. (click for larger version)
November 10, 2014NORTH CONWAY — The Kennett Eagles made good use of their first home playoff game since 2004 by thrilling fans with a dominating 48-12 North Conference Championship win over the visitors from Kearsarge.
The Eagles came hot out of the gate with a touchdown within the first five minutes of regulation. They won the coin toss and chose to receive. Kherry Rober picked up the short kick at the Kennett 29 yard-line. A holding call moved back the line of scrimmage, but eventually the Eagles were able to make a first down off a nice pass from QB Will Pollard to Drew McDonald. Next to motivate a move was running back Nate Arnold who worked his way up the middle for position at the Kearsarge 45. A pass to Ryan Stevens started to close the gap and Arnold would inevitably make a 23-yard run soon after to put his team just five yards from the first touch down of the game. Kearsarge called a timeout at this point and did their best to keep Kennett at bay. The Eagles were dealt two sacks on Pollard in a row and one offensive flag for illegal procedure. On Kennett's fourth attempt Pollard lasered a 15-yard touchdown pass to Nate Emerson just inbounds at the far corner. A similar pass then went to Nick Graziano at the 6:56 mark to put Kennett in the black 8-0.
Cougar Justin Norris received the ball and was down at his team's 31. Kearsarge gained some ground, but were pushed back by Eagle Nick Sherwood. They were forced to punt and Rober received for a first and 10 at the 33. A few plays later, however, a fumble gave Kearsarge position at the Kennett 49 on a carry by workhorse Riley Antle. He earned that title over the next several plays. He pushed his team up nine-yards and despite a penalty right after he was integral in running a fake punt play for a first and goal. He then pushed through for a touchdown. Cameron Webster caught the next pass for a two-point conversion, tying up the game.
Kennett then received at their 28, which was followed by a nice pick up from Pollard off a busted play to his team's 45. Arnold continued to impress over the next several plays with a yard gain of 36 resulting in a third and one at the Cougar 15. He proceeded to finish the job with Cougars on his back setting the ball just over the TD line. There was no extra point and Kennett was in the lead 14-8 at 9:23 left in the second quarter.
Kearsarge received at their 34, pushed out of bounds by Eagle Casey Sandman. They didn't make much headway as Graziano intercepted the ball at the Kennett 40 with 7:56 still left on the clock.
Stevens carried the first down for Kennett and right after squeezed through the middle to put his team on the Cougar 32. Then Pollard, who was flushed out, made a nice clutch pass to McDonald for the 32-yard touchdown.
There was no conversion with the catch out of bounds, but the Eagles were still soaring higher 20-8 with 5:44 until halftime.
Keararge received and Willio Rehor was slippery taking it to his team's 37. Cameron Webster completed a pass to hit the Kennett 40, Antle surged up to the Kennett 30 and Rehor made a mad sprint to the 17. Defensive lineman Nick Wells headed a tackled that pushed the visitors back to the 25. Soon after Kennett's Theo Scarlet made a big tackle, putting Keasarge in a tight spot looking at their fourth down. They chose to pass and it didn't pan out for them as Graziano leaped up for his second interception of the game.
Kennett started at their 20 and made a nice completion to Emerson who crushed the pedal to the floor and ran down the right side all the way to the Cougar 19 yard line. From there Pollard pulled another shimmy and shake through the defense for the touchdown. The two-point conversion to McDonald was good for the 28-8 lead with 54.8 left on the clock.
Coming out of halftime Kennett kicked off to Kearsarge who were ultimately held to their 38 and were forced to punt. Kennett was then hounded by a slew of penalties, but eventually Arnold made a big run to the Cougar 32. McDonald gained six more before Pollard lifted off a touchdown pass to Axel Olsen. There was another penalty on the conversion attempt followed by an incomplete leaving the score 34-8 at 5:01 left in the third quarter.
The Cougars didn't hang onto the ball long after receiving at their 33 as Aaron Lamar made his team's third interception of the game. The Eagles were soon forced to punt, but the action got even crazier as Kearsarge fumbled on the return and sophomore Bowen Wales recovered the ball 15 yards away from paradise. The Eagles faced another 10-yard penalty and then ran the clock to push the game into the fourth quarter. Just 11 seconds into the final canto Pollard made a touchdown run to make it 40-8.
After the Kearsare return to their 34 they were soon forced into a punt and Kennett restarted their offense at the Eagle 19. Wales ninja rolled his way into a 17-yard gain. However, there were then two loose, but recovered balls in a row and Kennett was kicking once again. It was at 6:42 left in the game that Kennett called a timeout.
Coming out of it Cougar Logan Seaholm proved to be very slippery and made an impressive 40-yard touchdown to put some life into the Kearsarge bench making it 40-14.
Kennett had time and talent on their side, however, not long after sophomore running back Pat Cullen made a lengthy 54-yard touchdown. Wales followed up with a crash into the endzone for the conversion and final 48-14 score.
With a minute left in the game Wales recovered a Cougar fumble and Kennett took a knee to end the game.
Kennett moves on to the Division II semifinals, where they will now host St. Thomas at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15.