TILTON — There was a rare occurrence Saturday in Tilton, where Winnisquam Regional lost a varsity football game.
Winnisquam entered Saturday’s game having won 19 in a row, but Gilford/Belmont’s 22-0 victory ended what was the state’s longest winning streak.
It was the first time the Bears came up short in a game since the final week of the 2017 regular season, when they lost to Epping/Newmarket. That was also the last time Winnisquam was shut out (36-0).
“Anytime you go up against a team with as much success and pride in the program as them it’s nice to go out there and compete and hopefully take down a team you respect a lot and that you know is a strong team,” Gilford/Belmont coach Josh Marzahl said.
Gilford/Belmont prevailed even though quarterback Jack McLean sustained an ankle injury early in the first quarter and missed chunks of the contest. The Golden Eagles were already without starting quarterback Alex Cheek, who is out for the season with a hip injury.
McLean hit Liam Merriam for a 7-yard TD pass with 11:02 remaining in the first half, and connected with Brandon Gallagher for a 24-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter that put the ball on the Winnisquam 1 and set up the game’s final TD.
Running back Blake Descoteaux (22 carries for 109 yards) capped a 12-play, 68-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter. He carried the ball nine times in the drive, and also ran in the two-point conversion.
Winnisquam, a Division III program, hadn’t played since opening the season with a 13-0 victory over Laconia on Sept. 25.
The wet and windy conditions didn’t help the Bears in their comeback attempt. Winnisquam QB Philip Nichols completed 8 of 19 passes for 72 yards.
“We’re better than what we showed out there today,” Winnisquam coach Derek Hunt said. “It was just part of not playing for a couple weeks. That’s the times. We have to adapt and deal with it. It did hurt us not being able to throw like we usually do, but they played in the same conditions we did.”
Gilford/Belmont raised its Division II record to 3-1.
“Can’t say enough about Jack and his effort out there after the ankle injury early,” Marzahl said. “He just wants to go out there and compete with his team. He was throwing on one foot sometimes.
“We talked to them all week about finding a way to win. We did that today.”