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November 02. 2012 11:10PM

Franzoso return a boost for Winnacunnet

HAMPTON - Running back Ben Franzoso returned from a groin injury Friday night, and it didn't take him long to make his presence felt.

Franzoso wiggled free for a 73-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage as Winnacunnet of Hampton capped its regular season by beating Bishop Guertin of Nashua, 28-14.

Franzoso, who didn't play in three of Winnacunnet's last four games, finished the contest with 232 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He was used for four plays - three carries - in the second half.

"Obviously we missed him this year," Winnacunnet coach Ron Auffant said. "He's a big-play threat. He can make any play a big play, whether it's an inside run or an outside run, because he's got that extra gear. It makes a big difference for our offense."

BG got the start it wanted when Nick Marino returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, but Franzoso helped Winnacunnet tie the game 20 seconds later. His second touchdown came on a 90-yard run with 2:50 left in the first half. The Warriors led 21-7 at halftime.

"I was so pumped up for this game," Franzoso said. "I'm pretty much 100 percent."

The victory earned Winnacunnet (9-1 overall, 7-1 in Division II) the No. 1 seed for the Division II playoffs and a rematch with fourth-seeded BG (5-4, 5-3) next Saturday in Hampton (1 p.m.). It will be Winnacunnet's first home playoff game since the 2004 season, when it beat Keene in the semifinals and lost to BG in the Division II championship game.

"We definitely wanted to play at home, so that was a big incentive," Franzoso said "Now we have to beat them again, and that's going to be even tougher."

Third-seeded Keene (8-2, 6-2) will play at second-seeded Bedford (8-1, 7-1) in Saturday's other semifinal.

"He's obviously got very good speed and he runs pretty tough, so they're getting him back at the right time," BG coach Travis Cote said when he was asked about Franzoso. "The kid's good. He gets in the open field and he's tough to catch."

Winnacunnet took the lead for good on a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ing Hao Veasna to Ben Gareau with 9:58 left in the first half.

Gareau scored Winnacunnet other touchdown when he intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards. The TD came on BG's first possession in the third quarter. The Warriors had a 28-7 lead when Carly Gould made her fourth point-after kick.

BG capped the scoring when No. 3 quarterback Drew Sanborn hooked up with Aidan Loftus for a 45-yard TD pass with 50 seconds to play.

Winnacunnet was winless in its last 12 games against BG.

"They have size and they have good athletes - they're a good football team," Cote said. "At least we're playing in the second season, so we have to be positive and be happy that we at least get an opportunity to come back. Now everybody's zero and zero. Win one game and you're in the state championship. That's our goal."

rbrown@unionleader.com

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