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H.S. Football: NHIAA state champions take a final bow at Jeff Francoeur Huddle

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 30. 2017 9:51PM
Winnacunnet assistant coach Ryan Francoeur, grandson of Jeff Francoeur during the Jeff Francoeur Huddle held at the Sweeney Post in Manchester on Thursday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Ron Auffant was in the spotlight more than anyone else during Thursday night’s Jeff Francoeur Huddle at Manchester’s Sweeney Post.

Auffant, who led the Winnacunnet of Hampton football team to a 12-0 record this year, was recognized for guiding Winnacunnet to the school’s first Division I state championship. He was also honored as the head coach of the state’s most improved team. The Warriors finished with a 3-6 record last season.

“We had a lot of seniors in 2015, so basically we had a young team (in 2016),” Auffant said. “We just couldn’t win a close game. Our inexperience showed. This year those kids had experience.

“I knew we had a good team coming into this year, but a championship team? In Division I? No. I thought maybe a playoff team if we stayed healthy. After we beat Bedford (during the regular season) I said, ‘You know what. We have a chance here.’ We still had to play Exeter and Goffstown (the next two weeks) and we knew that would be a grind. After we beat those two teams, I said, ‘Maybe we have something special here.’”

The Jeff Francoeur Huddle, which is named after the former Somersworth coach, is sponsored by the Joe Yukica Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. Francoeur posted a 158-83 record as Somersworth’s head coach from 1929 to 1961. He guided the Hilltoppers to a 43-game winning streak from 1950 to 1955.

Ryan Francoeur, Jeff’s grandson, was Winnacunnet’s offensive coordinator this season. The Warriors, the No. 1 team in the final New Hampshire Union Leader Power Poll, averaged 36.9 points per game this season and outscored their opponents 443-166.

“I’ve heard stories about him,” Ryan Francoeur said. “I heard he always got the most out of his talent. That he was tough and demanding, but never swore. He’d be the coach who’d come up with something funny to say, but his players never heard him swear. He ran a tight, disciplined program that was very well respected.”

Auffant has been Winnacunnet’s head coach for the last 14 seasons. He also won a state championship in 2012, when the Warriors beat Bedford for the Division II title.

“I think we won as a team,” Auffant said. “We had a good, balanced offense. We could throw a little bit. We had a really good defense. Our special teams were pretty good. It wasn’t like we relied on one thing. It really was a team effort.”

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Two other head coaches — Plymouth’s Chris Sanborn and Campbell of Litchfield’s Greg Gush — were also honored at the event.

Sanborn led Plymouth to an 11-0 record and the Division II state championship. It was the 24th state title for the Plymouth program. The Bobcats will enter the 2018 season with the longest winning streak in the state (15 games).

Gush’s Campbell team completed an 11-0 season by beating Monadnock of Swanzey in the Division III championship game. Gush also steered the Cougars to the 2014 Division III title.

The head coach from each state championship team received the Chuck Lenahan Award, which is named after the former Plymouth head coach. Lenahan, who retired in 2013, won 20 state championships and a had career record of 356-70-1.

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Winnisquam of Tilton’s Pat Riberdy has been named the head coach for New Hampshire for the 2018 Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, which will be played at Castleton (Vt.) State College on Aug. 4. … Dover’s Tod Trask was recognized as the state’s outstanding high school football official for the 2017 season . … This year’s Gatorade Player of the Year is scheduled to be announced Dec. 11. … Plymouth State University head coach Paul Castonia, Franklin Pierce head coach Rashad Watson and St. Anselm assistant coach John Trisciani spoke at the event. …

The selections for this year’s CHaD New Hampshire East/West All-Star Game were made Tuesday night, and the team will be announced next month. The game will be played June 30 at the University of New Hampshire. Laconia’s Craig Kozens (East) and Concord’s Eric Brown (West) will serve as this year’s head coaches.