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Opener not so kind as Eagles fall to F-N, 37-14


by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

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Gilford sophomore Max Troiano looks for a whole in the Farmington-Nute defense during his team’s 37-14 loss in the season opener on Sept. 1. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
September 03, 2012
GILFORD – It was an afternoon of close encounters for the Gilford High School football team. The Golden Eagles hope that won't be the case as the Division VI season continues.

Visiting Farmington-Nute stormed out of the gates on Sept. 1, using a big rushing attack and taking advantage of some Gilford mistakes en route to a 37-14 win at the Meadows in both teams' season openers.

"We were half a yard off on a pass, two yards deep on this one, an arm tackle here…but the kids didn't hang their heads," explained Gilford coach Brad Archer, who made his Gilford coaching debut. "We kept coming back. If we make half of those plays, we're up in the first half. Defensively I thought we did well, just a few missed tackles here and there."

Farmington-Nute (1-0) marched right down the field on its opening drive, rushing the ball exclusively, as it did for most of the game, and capping off a five-play drive with a five-yard TD run from Austin Healy for a 6-0 lead just 2:16 into the opening quarter.

Gilford (0-1) moved close to midfield on its opening possession, taking advantage of a 15-yard run from sophomore tailback Max Troiano in the process. But quarterback Jack Athanas' first pass was intercepted by Jase Gregoire, and the F-N quarterback/defensive back ran it 48 yards to the house to double the Tigers' lead at 12-0.

"That was a great play by that defensive player, simple as that," said Archer. "Good plays beat good teams and they were good today."

Healy, who rushed for 103 yards on 10 carries, scored his second touchdown late in the first quarter, and F-N had a commanding 18-0 lead entering the second period of action.

The Eagles wouldn't go away however, as the defense utilized a big sack from Zack Poisson to gain some momentum. Gilford got the ball back with 2:07 remaining on its own 33-yard line, and Athanas led his team down the field in an almost flawless two-minute drill. Athanas hit Troiano out of the backfield for a 36-yard pickup on first down, then followed with a 16-yard toss to Troiano on the next play. After a Troiano two-yard run, the sophomore bettered his effort with a 13-yard touchdown scamper off tackle right to put Gilford on the board. Athanas ran in the two-point conversion and the Eagles were within 18-8 at halftime.

"There's no quit in this team," Archer said. "We've got a very solid squad. As a matter of fact, I almost feel sorry for Mascoma (Valley) next week because knowing our kids, they're going to come out even more fired up than usual."

The Eagles looked to carry their momentum over into the third quarter, as the opening drive of the frame saw Athanas connect with Beck Stecher (four catches, 74 yards) on a 41-yard pickup, and the team got all the way down to the F-N nine yard line before being stopped on fourth down.

F-N would score on three straight possessions in response, with tailback Jamen Gunnison (14 carries, 154 yards) breaking the goal line on two of those occasions to give the visitors a commanding 37-8 lead.

Gilford would finish the game strong however, as the Eagles scored a touchdown on their final drive of the day. Thanks to new life after a 38-yard gain on a Stecher fake punt run, Athanas hit Troiano for a 28-yard gainer and then followed with a five-yard TD pass to Stecher in the corner of the endzone to cut the final deficit to 37-14.

"We saw our weaknesses, we saw mistakes and now we just have to go back and correct it," explained Archer. "There's another eight games left. Take nothing away from Farmington…that's not the same Farmington team that's been playing the last three or so years. Very solid, very strong. Like I said, we can either lie down, go 0-9 and let every team roll over us, or we can pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and go kick some behind. I think the choice is going to be 'B' on that one. One game does not determine a season."

Troiano finished with 66 yards rushing on 19 carries to go along with 81 yards receiving on four catches. Athanas was 9-of-28 passing for 162 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

"With D6, any Saturday, any team can beat any team," began Archer. "I think it's going to be a battle right down until the end. I think we can be in the mix, though."

Gilford is right back at it this Saturday, Sept. 8 when Mascoma Valley comes to the Meadows for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff. The Royals beat Franklin, 26-13, in their opener last week.

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