Gilford's Jack Athanas looks to shed a tackle from I-L/MA's Nick Galietta during the Eagles' 31-20 victory in Meredith on Saturday. Athanas threw for 223 yards in a come from behind victory. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
September 23, 2013MEREDITH – Thanks to a healthy dose of quarterback Jack Athanas, the Gilford High School football team erased a 12-0 deficit to pick up win number two of the season on Sept. 21.
The visiting Golden Eagles scored 24 points in the second half with Athanas tossing for 223 yards and three total touchdowns (one rushing) in a 31-20 come from behind win over Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough on Homecoming at Charles Burrows Memorial Field.
"We learned how to win these last two weeks," said Athanas of Gilford's back to back wins over Winnisquam and I-L/MA to improve to 2-1. "To add a comeback win this week, our confidence is just getting better each week."
It was a frustrating week for the Lakers (1-2), which took a 12-0 lead midway through the second quarter when quarterback Kier Vicente snuck in from a yard out. The Eagles would answer with 25 unanswered points however, taking advantage of I-L/MA through the air. Athanas completed 11 of 27 passes for 223 yards and two passing TDs.
"We knew who their playmakers were but Gilford's offense just executed better than our defense was able to," I-L/MA coach Jon Francis said afterwards. "We talked that this game has to be a test of wills. Hats off to Gilford because they wanted it more than us."
The victory was a statement game for the Eagles, which won just one game last year in a miserable season. After a big win over Winnisquam last week put Gilford back on the map, this week's win cemented the Eagles' status as a potential contender in Division III.
"If people do realize we're not a pushover now then that's fine by me," said Gilford head coach Chris Marden. "(Our confidence) is through the roof right now. We had to teach the guys how to win again and we're starting to do that."
The Lakers led 12-0 thanks to touchdowns from Devante Carter (five yard TD) and Vicente, but the Eagles finally got their offense on track on the ensuing possession after Vicente's score. Thanks to big return from junior Beck Stecher on the kickoff, the Eagles were in business midway through the second quarter. Athanas needed just two plays to score, as he connected with Zach Poisson on a crossing route for a 46-yard touchdown that made it 12-7 when Spencer McEvoy tacked on the extra point. The late touchdown before halftime sent the Eagles into the locker room with a new sense of confidence.
"Whenever you score, that's a huge momentum boost," Marden said. "If we're down 12-0 at the half instead of 12-7, I felt like maybe we come out a little bit differently in the second half."
Francis also noted that the late score before intermission seemed to change the complexion of the game.
"One play can turn anything around," he said. "Even a 12-0 lead, no amount of points feels like enough."
Gilford came flying out of the gates in the third quarter, as Athanas put the visitors on top for the first time all day when he hit Max Troiano out of the back field on a broken play for a 22-yard strike and a 13-12 advantage with 10:52 remaining.
The Eagles would score two more touchdowns in the third quarter, with David MacDonald (10 carries, 65 yards) bulling in from one yard out and Athanas taking a QB sneak in from the same distance to put Gilford on top 25-12 with 4:14 left in the frame.
The scores were set up thanks to the pass, as Athanas threw for 164 of his 223 yards in the third, including a 62-yard hookup with Kyle Gaudet.
"After the first few series, we knew that the passing lanes were open," admitted Athanas. "We knew we had the momentum going into the half and we just had to keep it going. The line and receivers get the credit though they did all the work in front of me."
The Lakers cut the deficit to 25-20 with just 1:13 left in the third quarter, as Nick Brothers found paydirt from nine yards out and Carter tacked on the two-point conversion.
But Gilford would tack on an insurance touchdown midway through the fourth, taking advantage of a Jamie Gill interception to start their drive in I-L/MA territory. MacDonald was the workhorse on the drive, as he carried the ball four times before getting his number called at the goal line for another one-yard TD and a 31-20 advantage.
The Lakers moved the ball deep into Gilford territory on their final possession, with Vicente hitting Kodey Converse for a big 47-yard pickup on the march. But things stalled out at the 12 yard line, and Gilford took over on downs with Athanas taking one final knee to secure the victory.
Troiano (four catches, 76 yards), Gaudet (three catches, 79 yards) and Poisson (three catches, 67 yards) were the big targets for Athanas on the day, as the senior southpaw QB was throwing on nearly every down in the second half.
"We saw (IL/MA) putting eight (players) in the box early in the game, daring us to throw the ball," said Marden. "With Jack as a senior, stuff just doesn't faze him. I have all the confidence in the world in him throwing the ball and at halftime I basically told him, you're going to have to throw the ball for us to win."
The loss was the second in a row for the Lakers after a big win in Week 1 over Franklin. I-L/MA will look to rebound on the road at Newfound this Saturday in Bristol.
"We just have to go back to work," said Francis. "We just have to make corrections and watch film to get ready to go again. We can't give up."
Carter led the I-L/MA offense with a whopping 29 carries for 141 yards, while Vicente was 9-for-12 passing for 122 yards and the rushing TD.