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NHIAA Football: Winnacunnet wins battle of Seacoast

By MICHAEL ABELSON
Special to the Union Leader

September 24. 2017 2:15AM
Winnacunnet's Brendan Kacmarcik tries to make a cut to avoid Exeter's Ryan Johnson during Saturday's Division I game in Exeter. (Photo by Joe Marchilena)

EXETER - As time wound down, with victory assured, Winnacunnet High senior Carter Havey turned to take in his cheering classmates in the grandstand celebrating and making noise.

A smile of contentment spread across Havey's face. He and the Warriors had earned it.

Before a big crowd at Bill Ball Stadium, the Warriors played a consistent game on both sides of the ball to take down archrival Exeter 23-7 in a key Division I East contest.

Havey anchored the Warriors' defensive effort that held Exeter to just 194 yards and only two plays of 15 or more yards. In the defensive interior, Havey had a masterful game with 11.5 tackles.

Winnacunnet held the vaunted Exeter rushing attack to just 119 yards. Exeter didn't run a play inside the Warriors' 30-yard line until midway through the third quarter.

"What it comes down to is that we had a really good week of practice," Havey said. "We watched a lot of film, and every play my eyes were locked on the guards in front of me because with Exeter the guards take you to the play every time. It was just about doing my job, trusting my teammates to do their job, and playing hard."

With Havey and the defense locking down Cody Morissette and the Blue Hawks' offense, the Warrior attack took center stage and did it with style. On Winnacunnet's first offensive possession, junior tailback Brendan Kacmarcik took an option pitch, hit the hole, and scampered 62 yards down the Exeter sideline for a touchdown. Kacmarcik ran for 103 total yards as the Warrior ground game piled up 289 total yards over 36 rushes.

Kevin Gagnon added a 25-yard field goal late in the second quarter to give Winnacunnet a 10-0 going into the break.

Exeter responded in classic Blue Hawk fashion with a 16-play, 79-yard drive over 7:14 of the third quarter, capped by a 1-yard touchdown dive from Morissette to cut the gap to 10-7. Winnacunnet did itself no favors with two penalties, including an offside on fourth down.

"I think the only letdown we had was with the penalties," Winnacunnet coach Ron Auffant said. "We talk about that. Stay the course. It's 48 minutes so just play. Good things and bad things will happen."

And on the next possession Winnacunnet dropped the dagger. Facing a third-and-16 Winnacunnet quarterback Patrick MacDougall rolled right and let loose a heave down the sideline that found Evan Welch for a 53-yard touchdown. Welch had two catches for 76 yards receiving.

"I was just continuing with my route and getting as far as I could across the field," Welch said. "I trusted Pat the whole way and the ball flew right to me."

Welch added a huge interception with 9:31 left, which turned into a Winnacunnet touchdown five plays later.

The win makes Winnacunnet 4-0 on the season as the iron of its schedule has proven that the Warriors are more giant than they are giant killer. Coupled with last week's win over Bedford, the Warriors beat last season's Division I finalists by a combined 43-15.

Next week poses another mountain for the Warriors to climb when they welcome fellow undefeated, Goffstown to Hampton.

"We knew from the start of the season that we had the potential to be the best team in the state," Havey said. "These last two wins have really proven we're a really special team. We have a lot of talent. All we can do from here is keep working hard, not get cocky. It's about working hard and just moving forward."


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