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NHIAA Football: Central stays close before falling to Winnacunnet

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 21. 2017 1:24AM

MANCHESTER — Friday had trap game written all over it and nearly was for the undefeated Winnacunnet High of Hampton football team.

The Warriors, who clinched the Division I East Division title a week ago, never trailed in its 42-21 victory over Manchester Central at Gill Stadium but they certainly had to earn everything to improve to 8-0 on the season. Up a point with 11:52 left in the fourth quarter, Winnacunnet reeled off 20 unanswered points to win and secure the top seed in its half of the Division I bracket.

“We knew they had some players and big plays hurt us in the first half,” said Winnacunnet coach Ron Auffant, whose team remains tied with Salem for No. 1 in the Union Leader Power Poll. “We’ll take it. It’s a long season where you don’t always play your best game and still win. We’ve had a couple of those this year and we’re moving forward.”

The turnaround for the Warriors came by way of their running game, which had spotty success during the opening half. A 76-yard drive featuring 53 rushing yards on Winnacunnet’s first drive of the second half not only resulted in one of quarterback Pat McDougall’s three rushing touchdowns, but it also re-established the Warriors’ run game.

Central (5-3) got to within 22-21 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Alex Hawkom threw a 35-yard TD pass to Jeremyah Rivera, but Winnacunnet went off from there with its success on the ground. MacDougall scored his final touchdown with 8:43 remaining to put the Warriors up a touchdown.

The knockout punch from the Warriors came later when they scored twice in 16 seconds to make it a three-score edge with less than four minutes to play. Jordan Fuller, who Auffant praised for his second-half work, padded Winnacunnet’s lead with a 28-yard TD before Evan Welch returned a 30-yard interception on Central’s first play after Fuller’s score.

Central went 94 yards in less than a minute to get to within 15-13 just before the half. Hawkom started the drive with a 51-yard keeper from Central’s 4-yard line. The signal-caller then struck for a 39-yard pass to Jeremy Chandler before capping Central drive two plays later when he and Chandler hooked up again, this time for an 8-yard TD.

“When you throw the ball, only one thing out of three can go right,” Central coach Ryan Ray said. “We’ve got great wide receivers and a great quarterback. But when you throw it as much as we do, there are bound to be drives where we go three-and-out and take 10 seconds off the clock. That’s a good defense and a great team they have, though.”

The Little Green will fight for their playoff lives next week as they will need to beat Bedford to make the tournament.

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