Strong second half leads Kennett to fifth straight Carroll County title
THE KENNETT football team poses with the Carroll County Cup after beating Kingswood on Friday night. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 31, 2011WOLFEBORO — For almost the entire first half, the annual Carroll County football championship was a pretty good battle.
However, the Kennett Eagles took advantage of a late Kingswood fumble in the first half and grabbed momentum, eventually pulling away for a 42-21 win over the Knights.
The fumble came with just 25 seconds on the clock in the first half and the Eagles were able to convert it into a touchdown just a few plays later and increased a 15-14 lead into a 22-14 lead at the break.
"That touchdown at the half, that was huge," said Kennett coach Mike Holderman. "That had to hurt them a little because they're right there in that game."
"That touchdown at the end just turned us the opposite way," said Kingswood coach Chip Skelley. "If we had had the ball first in the second half, that may have helped close the tide, but they had all that momentum."
Out of the gate, both teams had chances and for the first half it looked as though the Carroll County Championship trophy had a chance to either go north or stay in Wolfeboro.
Both teams struggled out of the gate a bit. Kingswood got a couple of nice runs from Kohl Meyers, but a sack from Jon Saxby and a big hit in the backfield from Dustin Stewart forced the Knights to punt.
However, Kennett also struggled on offense, as Abe DeMaio got a sack and a big stop on fourth down to get the Knights the ball back.
Cam Whitcomb hit Nick Dore and Meyers with passes on the next Knight drive, but a sack from Ryan Cottrell helped to stop the drive and Kennett got the ball back.
Three plays later, the Eagles were in the end zone. Quarterback Jesse Wheeler hit a wide-open Nick Massa up the middle and the running back took it 47 yards for the touchdown. Connor Gillette drilled the extra point and Kennett had a 7-0 lead with 1:12 to go in the first quarter.
A Stewart sack ended the first quarter and a sack from Cottrell opened the second quarter as the Kennett defense shined, getting them the ball back.
However, that possession didn't last long. Ben French recovered a fumble on the second play from scrimmage to give Kingswood the ball back.
Whitcomb hit Myers on first down and on third and five, Meyers broke free for a big run, getting the ball down to the 16 yard line. One play later, Meyers caught a pass on the far side and danced along the sidelines and into the end zone for a Kingswood touchdown. Michael Lautenschlager got in on the extra point and blocked the kick, keeping Kennett with a 7-6 lead with 8:55 to go in the half.
Kennett ate up the clock with the next drive, eating more than four minutes. Massa did the majority of the work, carrying the ball on the ground and he eventually did the job of getting the ball in the endzone with 4:40 to play in the half. Lautenschlager then carried in after a bad snap on the extra point conversion for a 15-6 lead for the Eagles.
Kingswood answered right away, as Dore made a run and caught a pass to help get the ball to the 23 yard line. Whitcomb then carried in for the touchdown and Meyers got the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 15-14 with 2:55 to go in the half.
The Kingswood defense then stymied the Kennett offense and got the ball back on a punt three plays later. However, the Knights fumbled the ball on their second play and Chris Krug caught a Wheeler pass from 21 yards out for a touchdown. Gillette booted the extra point and Kennett had a 22-14 lead at the break.
The Eagles took their momentum from the end of the first half and cleaned off half of the third quarter clock with their opening drive of the second half. Massa and Chris Krug did the carrying of the ball, while Wheeler hit Tom Donovan for a pass for a big gain on first and 10 at the 20 yard line.
Massa then converted on fourth and inches and Wheeler hit Donovan with a pass from 14 yards out. Gillette kicked the extra point and Kennett had expanded the lead to 29-14.
Kingswood got a couple of nice runs from Dore but couldn't move the ball far and a fake punt on fourth down was stopped by Shawn Beattie to give the Eagles the ball back.
Mass and Donovan then carried the ball to the end of the quarter and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Massa ran in from four yards out for a touchdown and a 36-14 lead with seven seconds gone in the fourth quarter.
Kingswood got more big plays from Whitcomb, Meyers and Dore but still couldn't find a way to get the ball into the end zone.
Kennett didn't have much trouble on its next drive, needing just five plays to get in the end zone. Stewart caught a screen pass and Massa carried three times to get the ball to the six yard line and Donovan carried in for the touchdown for the 42-14 lead.
The Knights were able to score on their final drive of the game, as Whitcomb, Meyers and Dore carried the ball on the ground, with Meyers carrying in for a five-yard touchdown with 36 seconds to play. Megen Pollini kicked the extra point for the final score of the game.
"That was a great way for us to end the season," Holderman said. "The win was great and we needed it."
The Eagle coach also commended his seniors, who were playing their final game.
"The seniors are going to go down as the group who set the foundation," he said.
Holderman noted that he was impressed with what he saw from Kingswood, throwing praise to both Meyers and Whitcomb for their fine play on the night.
"Kohl's a heck of a player and Cam did a nice job at quarterback," Holderman said. "But our guys persevered. We needed something to build on for next year."
Holderman noted that Massa ran for more than 1,000 yards and Wheeler threw for more than 1,000 yards on the season, which he thought were solid accomplishments.
"I'm so proud of all these guys," Holderman said. "We wanted to go out this way because we don't know when we'll play them again."
While the game was a bit harder for Skelley to swallow, he also saw some good things from his kids.
"I give my seniors credit," Skelley said. "They have not quite and they worked hard every practice. That was not the issue, it's not a lack of effort."
Skelley noted that the difference between the two teams was Kennett's ability to spread the ball around while his squad relied on just a few key players.
"They were spreading the ball around and different players were making the plays," he said. "We don't have that luxury."
The Kingswood coach did note that it was great to get Meyers back in the lineup and he was pleased with how Dore performed after missing much of the season due to injury.
Of course, injuries were a key element for the Knights this season.
"We didn't have one game where all the kids were there," Skelley said.
The win gave Kennett its fifth straight Carroll County title. Kingswood last won in 2006 on the old middle school field in the pouring rain under coach Jason Perkins.
The Eagles finished the season at 5-4 and the Knights finished at 0-9.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126