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Gilford-Belmont puts end to Winnisquam's winning streak


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by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Salmon Press Newspapers

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Winnisquam's Garret Mango drills Gilford-Belmont's Nick Arenstam in action Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Joshua Spaulding) (click for larger version)
October 22, 2020
TILTON — The wind was blowing, the field was a mess from a day's worth of rain and both sides were missing players due to injuries, but the Winnisquam and Gilford-Belmont football teams nonetheless met up for a highly-anticipated tilt in Tilton on Saturday afternoon.

The Division II Golden Eagles were able to use a strong running attack and a gutsy almost one-legged performance from quarterback Jack McLean to push their way past Winnisquam, 22-0, ending what had been a 19-game winning streak for the Bears, who moved up to Division III this season after winning consecutive Division IV titles the last two years.

"It was a solid win, we knew they would be a strong team," said Gilford-Belmont head coach Josh Marzahl. "We talked all week about finding a way to win and we did that today."

"We hadn't played in three weeks and you could see the rust out there at the start," said Winnisquam coach Derek Hunt. "We saw things that don't usually happen, happen."

Both teams struggled to get anything going early on, as both teams went three and out on the first possessions. McLean was injured on the first play of G-B's second drive of the quarter and Jalen Reese took over at quarterback but the Golden Eagles could not convert on fourth and three and Winnisquam took over. Bear quarterback Phil Nichols attempted a third down pass but Brandon Gallagher broke it up and the Bears punted away.

Brandon Marceau and Kiernan Harris both had sacks for the Bears on Gilford-Belmont's next drive and they eventually punted the ball away. Austin Normandin had a sack for G-B on Winnisqum's ensuing drive and then one play later, Curtis Nelson picked of a Nichols pass and Gilford-Belmont took over with McLean back on the field, though obviously not at full-strength.

Normandin and Nick Arenstam did the carrying for the Golden Eagles to get the first down inside the five-yard line as the first quarter came to a close.

It took Giflord just three plays to get in the end zone in the second quarter. Kyler Bourdeau had a big stop on third and goal in the backfield but one play later, on fourth and eight, McLean dropped a pass in to Liam Merriam with just 58 seconds into the second quarter. The two-point conversion was incomplete and Gilford-Belmont had the 6-0 lead.

Winnisquam put together a long drive, with Nolen Perrino, Brady Palmer, Nichols and Andre Cormier doing the work on the ground while Nichols also hit Garret Mango for a couple of passes and the Bears got the ball to the 14-yard line. However, a penalty and some defensive stops by Cooper Brown pushed the Bears back. A penalty moved them up to the 24 for fourth and long and Nichols found Cooper French with a pass but his dive came up just short of the first-down marker, giving Gilford-Belmont the ball back.

McLean hit Nelson for a first down on third and seven but the Golden Eagles had to punt the ball away. Winnisquam was unable to generate any offense on the next drive and punted away. Gilford converted a fourth and 10 when Reese passed to Gallagher to get the ball to the 25 but a Nichols interception in the end zone ended the half, with Gilford-Belmont up 6-0.

The Bears started the second half strong with Nichols picking up 13 on a pass to Mango. But they couldn't get any further and Gilford-Belmont took over. However, the Golden Eagles fumbled the ball away and Mason Fellows recovered for the Bears.

The visitors got the ball back just one play later when Reese was able to intercept a Nichols pass. This time, Gilford-Belmont moved the ball, with Blake Descoteaux getting the bulk of the carries as the Golden Eagles kept the ball on the ground and moved up the field. Normandin and Arenstam also carried the ball and the Golden Eagles got into the end zone on a three-yard carry from Descoteaux with 3:49 to go in the third. Descoteaux also carried the two-point conversion in for a 14-0 lead.

Winnisquam was able to move the ball with Gabriel Brown getting the carries on the next drive but a sack from Brown slowed the drive and a pair of incomplete passes led to a punt. Gilford-Belmont ate up the rest of the third quarter clock, with Isaiah Reese and Descoteaux getting the carries to finish up the third quarter.

Descoteaux, Normandin and Isaiah Reese all got carries to start the fourth quarter and then McLean hit Gallagher on fourth and 15 to get the ball to the one-yard line. From there, Descoteaux carried in and then Nelson caught the two-point conversion for the 22-0 lead with 7:49 to go in the game.

Winnisquam went three and out on the next drive, with Noah Pearson doing a nice job grabbing a high snap and getting the punt of. Gilford-Belmont also went three and out but Winnisquam answered with another three and out. The Golden Eagles were unable to pick up a first down on their next drive and Nichols hit French for a first down to start the final drive, but the game ended with a 10-yard Nichols run.

"Any time you go up against a team with as much success and pride as them, it's nice to go out and compete and take down a team you respect a lot," Marzahl said, also noting that the running backs, Normandin and Descoteaux asked to carry the load during halftime.

"At the half, both running backs came up and asked to run the ball more," Marzahl said. "Our offensive line picked up their end of the bargain too.

"And you can't say enough about Jack and his effort out there," the Golden Eagle coach said of his quarterback. "He was basically throwing on one foot."

"The conditions weren't good, but they played in the same conditions as we did," said Hunt. "But the rust showed today, we're better than what we showed today."

Hunt noted the rustiness was more obvious on offense than on defense, which he said did a good job.

"Defensively, there was just a couple of key plays," Hunt said. "Offensively, you could tell we're not clicking like we usually do."

Next week, Gilford-Belmont is scheduled to be at Plymouth and Winnisquam facing Newfound, but with playoffs on the horizon, that is subject to change.

Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or josh@salmonpress.news.

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