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Power Poll: Unbeaten Warriors leave no doubt

Chief Sports Editor

November 20. 2017 8:41PM
Winnacunnet's Evan Welch celebrates with fans after the Warriors beat Pinkerton Academy 41-21 for the Division I state championship on Saturday at UNH. (Nicole Goodhue Boyd/union leader)

The Winnacunnet High football team, which fought its way to the state Division I final with great defense, then won the big game with an explosive offense, is the unanimous No. 1 in the final 2017 New Hampshire Union Leader High School Football Power Poll.

The Hampton-based Warriors — the “beach boys,” as they fashioned themselves — finished 12-0 in the Granite State’s largest division after their dominating 41-21 victory over Pinkerton Academy in Saturday’s championship at UNH’s Wildcat Stadium. It was the culmination of firsts for the program: its first Division I state title; its first unbeaten season, and now, its first Power Poll championship.

Plymouth Regional, which capped a perfect season by taking the Division II state crown on Saturday, finished No. 2 — the highest placement for a Division II team since 2012, when Winnacunnet was edged for the top spot by Division I Exeter. The final vote in 2012 was a bit controversial in that Winnacunnet beat Exeter during the regular season. That year also marked the last time the Power Poll king didn’t finish unbeaten.

This season, there was no such doubt among the poll’s six voters.

“I have to give Winnacunnet credit for running the table and winning the championship,” said poll voter Pete Tarrier, host of the NH High School Football Show. “I actually picked Pinkerton to beat them, mostly because I hadn’t seen the Warriors play in person until Saturday, and I came away totally impressed with how balanced the team was. They were just really good in every facet of the game!”

Coach Ron Auffant’s team was ninth in Power Poll preseason balloting and eventually moved into the top spot on Oct. 2, sharing No. 1 with Salem every week until last week.

The Warriors allowed an average of 11.78 points in their nine regular-season games. In the quarterfinals, despite allowing 33 points to Bedford, the Warriors’ defense made the game’s biggest play, a stop on a two-point conversion in overtime to win the game.

In the semifinals, Winnacunnet virtually shut down Goffstown, prevailing 21-6.

But in the championship game, in a steady, chilly rain in Durham, the Warriors’ offense was the star of the night. With quarterback Patrick MacDougall passing, wide receiver Evan Welch catching (three touchdown passes) and halfback Jordan Fuller running (three TDs), Winnacunnet’s offense scored a TD on every one of its possession until garbage time.

Plymouth wasn’t quite as dominant as Winnacunnet on Saturday, but the Bobcats had things well in hand early in a 27-8 victory over Bow. Plymouth’s toughest game of the season was its 21-7 win over St. Thomas of Dover in the division semifinals.

“Winnacunnet went unbeaten against the state’s toughest schedule, so the Warriors clearly earned the No. 1 spot in the poll. Where to rank Plymouth was the toughest part of the voting for me this week,” said poll voter Roger Brown of the Union Leader. “Are the Bobcats better than Division I teams like Goffstown and Exeter? It’s hard to determine how Plymouth would fare against a Division I schedule.”

Pinkerton finished third in the poll, followed by Division I semifinalists Goffstown and Salem. Division III champ Campbell of Litchfield finished 10th.

Final Power Poll

The top 10 high school football teams in New Hampshire, with record, first-place votes/points in parentheses, plus last weeks rankings. Voters are Union Leader sports writers Roger Brown, Alex Hall and Joe Duball, Union Leader Chief Sports Editor Chris Duffy, Union Leader contributor Joe Marchilena of and Pete Tarrier, host of the NH High School Football Show (Saturday, 9-11 a.m.) on WFEA (99.9 FM & 1370 AM):

1. Winnacunnet, 12-0 (6/60), 1st
2. Plymouth, 11-0 (52), 4th
3. Pinkerton, 10-2 (43), 2nd
4. Goffstown, 9-2 (41), 5th
5. Salem, 10-1 (39), 3rd
6. Exeter, 7-3 (32), 6th
7. Bedford, 6-4 (23), 7th
8. Bow, 8-3 (12), 8th
9. Nashua So., 7-3 (11), T-9th
10. Campbell, 11-0 (9), T-9th
Other receiving votes: Monadnock, 10-1 (3), NR; Hanover, 9-1 (2), NR; Londonderry, 6-4 (2), NR; St. Thomas, 8-2 (1), NR.