Eagles handle G-B, eye Plymouth rematch

The Kennett High football team (5-1) was all business on Saturday afternoon and took care of business against Gilford-Belmont, winning the opening round of the Division II playoff game 46-10 at Gary Millen Stadium.

The win sets up a matchup with Plymouth (5-0) on the road this Saturday in the quarterfinals. The Bobcats beat the Eagles 21-20 in Conway in the second game of the season by rallying from a 20-7 fourth-quarter deficit.

Plymouth beat Merrimack Valley 42-6 on Saturday.

“I think we all hoped we’d get to see Plymouth again,” said Vaughn Beckwith, Eagles’ head coach. “We know they are a very good team, but I think we’re a good team, too.”

On a 42-degree day with little to wind and a blue sky, the Eagles soared and scored early and often. They found the end zone on their first possession, going 56 yards on 12 plays, capped off by a superb diving catch on a 17-yard touchdown pass from co-captain Parker Coleman to Kyle Perry in the right corner. Coleman was 2-2 on the drive, including a key 8-yard pass to Atticus “House” Fayle on fourth-and-three to keep the march alive.

The only hiccup on the first series was standout senior receiver Cole Salyards was injured on the fourth play when he picked up seven yards on a carry. He did not return to the game but stayed on the sidelines the entire game cheering on his teammates.

“Cole is fine,” Beckwith said at Sunday’s state championship field hockey game. “He had a little stinger (in his leg).”

Evan Dascoulias added the successful extra point to put KHS in front 7-0 with 6:41 left in the opening quarter.

Kennett was back in the land of six in no time. Gilford-Belmont (3-3) started its first possession on its own 35-yard line, but went backward from there with a false start penalty; the loss of a yard on a running play sniffed out by Perry; an intentional grounding penalty after all-out pressure from defensive end Evan Koroski on the G-B quarterback Jake Mclean pushed the visitors back to the 10-yard line.

After a 6-yard pass that led to a tackle by cornerback Isaiah “Shark” Scharnowske, the Golden Eagles attempted to punt, but Koroski blocked the kick and the ball sailed backward into the end zone where senior co-captain Braeden Santuccio dove onto it for the touchdown.

Dascoulias tacked on the extra point, making it 14-0 with 5:13 left in the first quarter

The Golden Eagles threatened late in the quarter after recovering a fumble on the Kennett 29. On fourth-and-16, Mclean connected with Isaiah Reese on a 33-yard pass down to the 2-yard line. After a Koroski tackle for a 5-yard loss, Mclean was intercepted in the end zone by Noah Barrows with 1:07 left in the period.

The Eagles then put together a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped off by a 2-yard drive by Tanner Bennett. Bennett, who rushed for two touchdowns and gained 156 yards on 21 attempts in the game, had a carry for 38 yards to set up the score. The extra point was no good, but KHS was in front 20-0 with 7:46 left in the half.

Bennett upped the lead to 26-0 with a 60-yard TD with 6:34 left in the second quarter.

The Golden Eagles got on the scoreboard with 1:51 to play in the half with a 10-play, 45-yard drive finished off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Mclean to Curtis Nelson. Mclean booted the extra point to trim the deficit to 26-7.

G-B cashed in on a second Kennett fumble with 1:14 to play before intermission on the KHS 42. Bobby Graustein, who was an absolute beast on both sides of the line of scrimmage, sacked Mclean for a loss of 8 yards on first down. Faced with fourth-and-seven with 13 seconds left in the quarter, Mclean found Curtis Nelson on a pass and a personal foul face mask penalty put the ball on the 7-yard line with 1.6 seconds to play. Mclean kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired, cutting Kennett’s lead to 26-10.

Kennett put together a nice six-minute drive that covered 55 yards on 11 plays that finished with Coleman connecting with Fayle on an 11-yard TD pass with 2:59 to play in the third quarter. The key play in the march was a 22-yard pass to Dascoulias on fourth-and-14 down to the 11-yard line. Dacoulias added the extra point.

Dascoulias nearly found the end zone himself on the Golden Eagles’ next possession when he intercepted a pass and returned it 57 yards to the G-B five-yard line.

Two plays later, Koroski scored on a dive play from the two with 2 seconds left in the quarter. The point-after attempt was no good.

Kennett closed out the scoring with 5:26 to play on a fantastic 38-yard interception for a TD by Perry, who darted all over the field avoiding tacklers in his pursuit of the goal line. The extra point was good by Dascoulias.

“We played really well,” Beckwith said. “I thought we did a lot of things right.”

In the Division II East bracket, Kennett will play at Plymouth on Saturday at 1 p.m., while Bow will host Lebanon at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

In the West, St. Thomas will travel to Timberlane on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. contest, and Souhegan will host Hollis-Brookline on Friday, also at 6:30 p.m.

The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m., at the home of the highest remaining seed.

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