Nate Baumiester of Gilford-Belmont goes up to break up a pass to Kyle Perry of Kennett in action Saturday. (Photo by Joshua Spaulding) (click for larger version)
October 15, 2020GILFORD — It was billed as a battle between two teams expected to be amongst the best in Division II in this unusual pandemic-shortened season of football.
Gilford-Belmont entered at 2-0 after decisive wins over St. Thomas and Kingswood and Kennett entered at 1-1 after a big win over Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough and a fourth quarter Plymouth rally the previous week that saw the Eagles edged by one.
When the final horn sounded over The Meadows on Saturday afternoon, the visiting Eagles had bounced back from their loss while the host Golden Eagles were dealt their first loss of the season.
"Last week, we saw what our potential was on the field," said Kennett coach Vaughn Beckwith. "We knew we had to take care of business and be resilient.
"And I think we did that today," he added.
"We knew coming in we had to play pretty good football and execute and take care of stuff on our end," said Gilford-Belmont coach Josh Marzahl. "We didn't accomplish that today and they're too good a program to make mistakes."
The Eagles got the ball to start the game and after a pass to Cole Salyards on the first play, stuck mostly on the ground, with Tanner Bennett, Kyle Perry and Salyards taking the ball up the field. A Gilford-Belmont penalty on fourth down gave the Eagles a big first town at the 10, but a fumble recovery by Johnathon Mitchell got the hosts the ball.
However, their first drive didn't last very long, as Kennett's Bobby Graustein recovered a fumble for the Eagles on the first play of the drive to get the Eagles the ball back inside the 10. From there, it took just three plays and Evan Koroski barreled into the end zone from one yard out for the touchdown with 6:17 to play in the first quarter. Evan Dascoulias booted the extra point and Kennett had the 7-0 lead.
Gilford-Belmont started with runs from quarterback Jack McLean and Blake Descoteaux before McLean connected with Brandon Gallagher for a first down. However, the hosts went no further and punted away. Kennett got a first down on a run from Salyards but also was forced to punt the ball away as time was running out in the first quarter.
The Golden Eagles went three and out as the second quarter got under way and Kennett got back to the end zone on the ensuing drive. Quarterback Parker Coleman hit Kyle Perry for a 25-yard pickup on the first play and Bennett carried the ball most of the rest of the way, with Coleman also hitting Salyards for a first down gain. Koroski again got the nod from the one-yard line and he carried in with 7:24 to go. Dascoulias added the extra point and Kennett's lead went to 14-0.
Graustein and Braden Santuccio got in the backfield for a sack to start Gilford-Belmont's next drive but the Golden Eagles appeared to be out of trouble when McLean hit Isaiah Reese with a pass up the middle. However, a penalty brought the ball back and the hosts eventually punted. Kennett went three and out on their next drive and a punt that was hampered by the gusting winds set Gilford-Belmont up inside the 25-yard line.
McLean, Descoteaux and Mitchell all got runs to start the drive and then McLean found Curtis Nelson for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 to go in the first half. McLean also booted the extra point and the hosts were on the board, down 14-6.
Kennett moved the ball quickly down the field, with Bennett and Salyards running and Dascoulias and Salyards each catching passes, but a nice breakup on third and 10 by Nate Baumiester helped Gilford-Belmont squelch the rally and the game went to the half with Kennett up 14-7.
Gilford-Belmont went three and out on the first drive of the second half and Kennett responded by eating up a good chunk of time with an 80-yard drive. Bennett did most of the running, with Salyards catching a Coleman pass for a key first down. The hosts appeared to have a turnover when Jalen Reese picked off a Coleman throw but a penalty negated the play and the Eagles moved to the three, with Koroski again getting the call to go in the end zone and Dascoulias booted the extra point for the 21-7 lead with 5:14 to go in the third.
The Eagles managed to recover the ensuing kickoff after it hit off a Gilford-Belmont player. However, the Golden Eagle defense held tight. Koroski and Coleman did have first down runs but a big sack from Malik Reese helped Gilford-Belmont stop the drive and get the ball back. However, the hosts went three and out on their next drive as the third quarter came to a close.
Koroski got the bulk of the carries on Kennett's next drive, with Bennett also getting three carries, but the drive eventually petered out and Gilford-Belmont got the ball back. However, their drive lasted just three plays, as Isaiah Scharnowske stepped in front of a McLean pass and got Kennett the ball back.
The Eagles needed just two plays to get to the end zone, as Bennett broke free for a 36-yard touchdown run with 6:12 to go for the 27-7 lead.
Consecutive sacks from Bennett and Santuccio ended Gilford-Belmont's next drive and Kennett was able to eat up the clock with Bennett, Koroski and Coleman and held on for the 27-7 win.
For Beckwith, Koroski was a new option in the ground game after he hadn't touched the ball on offense at all the previous week.
"We felt like we needed some short yardage formations," said Beckwith. "We were able to grind it out and get first downs and kill the clock at the end.
"We didn't know how they were going to line up, but we liked what we saw," the Eagle coach continued.
After failing to finish the previous week, Beckwith noted it was important to make sure the Eagles didn't back down this week.
"We were a little worried in the third at 14-7," he said. "It's still a tight game, so we were talking about finishing, And we were able to finish with a touchdown.
"Two (McLean) is a pretty capable player, we respected what he can do," Beckwith added. "He threw some passes against us last year that hurt us."
For the Golden Eagles, they are in the process of installing a different offense built around McLean after starting quarterback Alex Cheek was lost for the season after a week one injury and Marzahl noted that the team struggled to find an identity on offense.
"I thought our offense took a step back today," the Gilford-Belmont coach said. "We have to find a way to score more points.
"Every time you count on your defense to get that many stops, consistently, that's a lot of pressure on the defense," Marzahl continued. "Our defense did what they could."
He pointed out that it was McLean's first start at quarterback and he expects that the senior will rebound and help lead the team forward.
"He's got the tools to make it happen," Marzahl said.
Gilford-Belmont will be on the road at Winnisquam on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 2 p.m. while Kennett will be on the road at St. Thomas on Friday, Oct. 16, at 6:30 p.m.
Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.