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Roger Brown's State of Sports: It was Winnacunnet's night

By ROGER BROWN
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 19. 2017 10:42PM

Winnacunnet's Jordan Fuller scores a touchdown during Saturday night's Division I championship against Pinkerton Academy. Fuller scored three TDs in the Warriors' 41-21 victory. (Nicole Goodhue Boyd/Union Leader)

Winnacunnet coach Ron Auffant spent a lot of time last week thinking about how his team could contain Pinkerton Academy’s running game. He probably never considered doing it with his offense.

That’s what happened in Saturday night’s Division I championship game, though. The Winnacunnet offense turned in one of the finest halves of offensive football you’ll ever see, forced Pinkerton to play catch-up and breezed to a 41-21 victory at the University of New Hampshire.

The Warriors (12-0) had a 14-0 lead a little more than seven minutes into the game and were up 35-7 entering the third quarter.

“We had no answer for their offense tonight,” Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly said after the game. “And it’s not like our offense was clicking early on, but when you fall in a hole quick then you can throw away half of the game plan that you had, which for us is running the ball and picking up 3 and 4 yards a carry.

“All of a sudden we’re down 14 points and so now you have to do things differently than what you’re planning on doing. Their offense is what disrupted us.”

Here’s what Winnacunnet’s veer offense did on its five first-half possessions:

• Nine plays, 69 yards (touchdown)

• Four plays, 38 yards (touchdown)

• Six plays, 63 yards (touchdown)

• Seven plays, 48 yards (touchdown)

• Six plays, 50 yards (touchdown)

The Warriors had 273 yards of offense in the first half (195 rushing), were 4 for 4 on third-down conversions and also 4 for 4 in red zone opportunities. Winnacunnet quarterback Pat MacDougall attempted four passes in the half and completed all four for 78 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Evan Welch hauled in all three TD passes.

Winnacunnet also scored on its first possession in the third quarter, when sophomore running back Jordan Fuller (25 carries, 184 yards) collected his third rushing TD of the game. Only a blocked PAT prevented running time.

“It’s been really nice to have Jordan soften people up in the middle for us this year,” Winnacunnet offensive coordinator Ryan Francoeur said. “I almost got nervous this week because I was relaxed in the sense that I thought we could just run what we do, and we didn’t have to do anything special. We felt that way if we executed and they lined up the way we thought they were going to line up. So when we came out early and we got the alignments we thought we were going to get I felt pretty confident. Our (offensive) line has been dominant all year.”

If there was a key play in the game it may have come after Pinkerton cut Winnacunnet’s lead to 14-7 in the first quarter. On Winnacunnet’s first play on its ensuing possession, MacDougall completed a 42-yard pass to Lou Granger that moved the ball to the Pinkerton 21-yard line. According for Francoeur, it was the only new play Winnacunnet installed during the week of practice before the game.

The pass play led to Winnacunnet’s third TD.

“I thought the biggest play for us offensively was when it went 14-7 and then we opened up with the pass to Lou,” Francoeur said. “That gave us field position and changed the momentum in the game.

“We basically ran one formation all night. We got the alignments we wanted. The kids did great. They were amazing. They just executed.”

Winnacunnet was better known for its stingy defense for most of the season. That unit did its part against a Pinkerton team that scored 87 points in its first two playoff games and scored at least 42 points in eight of its first 11 contests, but this game was more about the Winnacunnet offense — an offense that averaged 7.1 yards per play.

As O’Reilly noted, the Astros played as hard on the game’s last play as they did on the first, but this was Winnacunnet’s night. The Warriors earned their first Division I championship on Auffant’s 57th birthday.

“We tried to take them out of their run game, make them throw, not give up big plays and we were fortunate,” Auffant said. “I think us getting up early set the tone. We came out and got on them, and that was a key.

“Couldn’t have asked for a better present.”

rbrown@unionleader.com


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