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Strong second half propels Eagles to win



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AUSTIN WEBER goes airborne during first half action against John Stark in the Kennett home opener on Friday, Sept. 9. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
September 12, 2011
NORTH CONWAY — It may not have been the prettiest game in Kennett football history, but when all was said and done, it went in the books as a win and that's the main objective for the Kennett football team.

The Eagles put together a solid second half, with the exception of the final few minutes, and picked up a 34-20 win over John Stark in the first home game of the season on Friday, Sept. 9, at Gary Millen Stadium.

"John Stark came out and did what they wanted to do," Kennett coach Mike Holderman said. "I give them all the credit in the world."

Holderman didn't think his kids looked past the Generals, who were coming off a big opening day win against Kingswood. He thought it might be a little bit of nerves.

"We had a great week of practice," Holderman said. "Nobody mentioned Plymouth. I think it might have been the nerves of first night, new uniforms and wanting to do well."

The Eagles couldn't have gotten off to a better start, as Austin Weber returned the opening kickoff to the 47-yard line and the Eagles needed just six plays to get in the end zone. A quick screen pass to Nick Massa picked up 13 yards, then Weber ran for 17 yards. Massa did the work from there, running in from two yards out with 9:21 to go in the first quarter. Massa also ran in on the two-point conversion to give the Eagles an 8-0 lead.

When the Eagles forced John Stark to punt on their first possession and Conor McDonald got a piece of the punt, it looked like Kennett was on a roll. However, the Eagles were not able to pick up a first down and John Stark got the ball back.

The Generals then did what they do best, which is control the clock. The visitors moved he ball up the field slowly, though Shawn Beattie had a great sack to close out the first quarter.

John Stark converted on fourth and seven to keep the drive alive and scored with 7:55 to play in the half. They missed the extra point and trailed 8-6.

Kennett got another great punt return from Weber, but the Generals clamped down on defense and forced Kennett to punt after just three plays. The Generals then took got a 57-yard reverse on the fifth play of the ensuing drive to get in the end zone for a 12-8 lead with 2:36 to go in the half.

Kennett came back with a ground attack with Massa and Weber carrying for the first down. Quarterback Jesse Wheeler hit receiver Mike Lautenschlager on third and 11 and Massa got the first down one yard later. Massa then carried in from two yards out with 24 seconds to play. Though the extra point was blocked, Kennett led 14-12.

A sack by Dan Blake and an interception by Mike Lautenschlager helped Kennett close out the half on a good note.

The Eagles kept John Stark from getting on the board to open the second half, with Beattie getting a big sack.

Kennett then took their first drive down the field with Massa and Christian Rivers doing the work on the ground and Wheeler hitting Massa and Lauteschlager with key passes. Massa ran in from 11 yards out and Connor Gillette kicked the extra point to give Kennett a 21-12 lead with 2:54 to play in the third quarter.

The Eagles forced John Stark to go three and out on the next drive and the Eagles' next drive took them into the fourth quarter. However, a fumble gave the visitors the ball back with 11:08 to play.

The Generals quickly moved the ball down the field, but Beattie stepped in front of a John Stark pass and ran it back 38 yards for a touchdown and Kennett led 27-12 with 9:08 to play in the game.

The visitors got a nice gain on a trick play for first down, but a McDonald sack on fourth down gave the Eagles the ball back. Massa needed just four plays to get in the end zone, as he broke loose for a 41-yard touchdown. Gillette again kicked the extra point and Kennett led 34-12 with 3:59 to go.

The Generals then ate up the clock the rest of the way, taking advantage of a couple of Kennett penalties and scored with four seconds on the clock and converted the two-point conversion for the 34-20 final.

"We made some adjustments at halftime," Holderman said. "They ran the counter like 50 times and that's what killed us.

"We were prepared for it, we just didn't execute it like we wanted to," the Eagle coach continued. "They wanted to hold the ball and control the clock and they did."

The Eagles will be heading to Plymouth for a game with the Bobcats on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 1:30 p.m. The last times the two teams met, Kennett ended Plymouth's record win streak.

"There's not any secret (to what they do)," Holderman said. "We know what they're going to do."

The Eagle coach noted that his game plan wouldn't be much different than last year, but the motivation might be a little different without the win streak to think about.

"The extra motivation this time is when was the last time they lost at home," Holderman pointed out.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at sportsgsn@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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