JAMES O'LEARY forces a Manchester West runner out of bounds during action on Friday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 27, 2014WOLFEBORO — If the idea was to set the tone early, the Kingswood football team succeeded in a big way.
The Knights scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the game and went on to knock off Manchester West by a 35-16 score on the turf of Alumni Field on Friday, Oct. 24.
"Our defense did a nice job," coach Chip Skelley said. "We were worried about the fact that they could throw. They've scored some points this year.
"We had a great first half and a good third quarter, but we kind of shot ourselves offensively a few times," Skelley continued.
Kingswood started strong, with a 36-yard run from Tony Ruiz de la Pena on second down putting the Patriots 30 yards from the end zone. After a nine-yard carry from Brad Smart and a nine-yard run from Ruiz de la Pena, Alex Matarozzo carried in from 12 yards out for the first score of the game just 2:10 in. Jeff Madden booted the extra point to give the Knights the 7-0 lead.
Manchester West got its first crack and Jake Overall and Matarozzo made their presence felt immediately on defense. West did get a first down, but on third and long following a pair of penalties, Smart recovered a West fumble and Kingswood got the ball back just 17 yards from the end zone and two plays later, Matarozzo carried in from nine yards out and Madden delivered the extra point to give Kingswood the 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
West once again got a first down on its next drive, but a big sack by Zach Mason and Smart pushed the Blue Knights back and again they had to punt the ball away. Kingswood took over and moved the ball back up the field. Matarozzo, Ruiz de la Pena, Smart and quarterback Dan Eldridge did the work on the ground, while Eldridge also hit Matarozzo and de la Pena with passes. The quarter ended with the host Knights at third and three. The first play of the second quarter on fourth down resulted in a fumble. Smart did recover the ball, but it was not over the first down line and West took over with a long drive ahead of them.
Thanks to a penalty and a couple of big passing plays, the Blue Knights were able to move the ball up the field with three consecutive first downs. However, the Kingswood defense tightened once the ball got over midfield, with Matarozzo getting a sack on third down and on fourth down, Mason and Josh Stanley came up with another sack and Kingswood had the ball back.
John LeMay, Ruiz de la Pena, Stanley and Eldridge carried the ball for the Knights as they moved the ball up the field. Owen Gonya made a nice grab on third and eight to haul in an Eldridge pass, getting the ball to the seven and two plays later, Stanley hauled in another Eldridge pass for the seven-yard touchdown with 3:52 to go in the quarter. Madden's extra point made it 21-0 for the host Knights.
Kingswood forced the visitors into a three and out on their next drive, but then botched the punt return, giving the Blue Knights another chance near midfield. West was able to get a first down, but on third and long, James O'Leary came up with a big sack and an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the hosts the ball back. Two plays later, an Eldridge threw an interception and West had the ball back, but time ran out on the half with Kingswood up 21-0.
West got the ball to open the second half and again got one first down, despite some solid defense from O'Leary. However, on third and 10, Gonya stepped in front of a pass and picked it off, giving the host Knights the ball back.
Three plays later, Gonya got into the end zone on an end around from 15 yards out and Madden's kick made it 28-0 with 9:23 to go in the third quarter. West put together its best drive on the next play, as they got the ball all the way down to the 10 yard line and inside, but on third and goal from the seven, Smart recovered a fumble and Kingswood got the ball back.
However, three plays into the drive, the Knights fumbled the ball away and West took over. They were not able to move it more than three yards and on fourth and seven an incomplete pass gave Kingswood another chance.
Once again, Kingswood handed the ball back to the visitors, this time on an interception. West took advantage this time, going 26 yards on two plays to get the first score of the game with 2:17 to go, cutting the lead to 28-8 with the conversion.
Kingswood had to punt as the third quarter came to a close and West took over to open the fourth quarter. However, they had to punt just three plays later and Kingswood took over again. This time the drive lasted just two plays, as the ball was stripped on a run and West took over.
The Blue Knights moved the ball up the field, using mostly the run to move the ball and then on fourth and 10 at the 20 got a touchdown pass with 7:58 to go in the game and the two-point conversion made it 28-16.
Kingswood punted away on the next possession and West again came back looking to cut the gap. However, Stanley and LeMay came up with a big sack on third down and Kingswood took over one play later following an incomplete pass.
The host Knights coughed the ball up just five plays later on a fumble and with 2:18 to go, the Blue Knights got the ball back. They moved the ball down the field before an Overall sack slowed the drive. Then on third and 10, Gonya stepped in front of another pass and this time returned it 55 yards for the touchdown. Madden's extra point made it 25-16 with less than a minute to go.
Jon Cassell sealed the win for the Knights when he picked off one final Manchester West pass and the Knights took a knee to secure the 35-16 win.
Skelley praised his team's defense for a strong game, considering they were on the field quite a bit.
"We spent a lot of time on defense, there was a lot of incomplete passes," Skelley said. "That fact that we answered the call, it was nice to see them buckle under and play strong up front."
He also noted that O'Leary had an especially strong game on defense.
The Knights will now turn their attention to their Carroll County rival Kennett, who will come into the final game of the regular season with an undefeated regular season record on the table. Last season the Eagles escaped with a win over the Knights and Skelley said his team is pumped for the rematch.
The Kingswood football team wore special pink uniforms in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The uniforms were supported by an anonymous donation.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Wolfeboro. The game is the final tilt of the regular season and takes place on Friday, Oct. 31.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com