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Eagles to host Gilford-Belmont in the playoffs



In an already unusual season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kennett High football found itself playing the same opponent two weeks in a row when the Eagles squared off against St. Thomas last Saturday.

KHS exploded for 25 points in the second quarter on the way to a comfortable 37-12 road victory in Dover over the Saints on Oct. 16. The two sides met again in Gary Millen Stadium on Saturday with the hometown flock winning 20-6.

The Eagles had been scheduled to host Kingswood last Saturday in the annual Carroll County Championship game. The game is traditionally the final one in a nine-game regular-season schedule.

Football looked very much in jeopardy in the summer as school and state officials wrestled with how they could pull off games, much less a season, safely. Through a series of multiple precautions, a season has happened, albeit an abbreviated one.

Given the late start to the season and in an effort to try to be fair to everyone, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association and its football committee adopted an open tournament playoff system for this fall. Everyone makes the playoffs.

The playoffs for Division II have been broken up into four regional clusters. Kennett (4-1) is in a cluster with Plymouth (4-0), Gilford-Belmont (3-2), Merrimack Valley (1-2) and Kingswood (0-4).

Kingswood and MV met in a play-in round last week with the Pride topping the Knights 34-14. MV will play at Plymouth, the No. 1 seed in the region on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Kennett, the No. 2 seed, will host No. 3 Gilford-Belmont also on Saturday at 1 p.m.

With the Kingswood game off the schedule, St. Thomas and Kennett agreed to play again.

“One of the things we learned from the St. Thomas game was it’s extremely hard to beat a team two weeks in a row,” said Coach Vaughn Beckwith. “This was a unique situation, not something we’d done before.”

The visiting Saints actually got on the scoreboard first in the opening quarter with a short touchdown pass on fourth down. The extra point attempt was no good.

Kennett tied the game up in the second quarter with a Parker Coleman TD pass to junior wideout Isaiah Scharnowske.

“It was Isaiah’s first (varsity) touchdown,” Beckwith said. “He had a big day. He intercepted a pass late in the first half and nearly returned it for a touchdown.”

Kennett took the lead for good on a short touchdown run by Tanner Bennett, the first of two TDs on a blustery afternoon.

The Eagles closed out the scoring with 4:03 to play with a five-play, 46-yard drive, capped off by a 33-yard run by Bennett up the middle. Coleman connected with Cole Salyards on the two-point pass attempt.

“Tanner is someone who needs a few touches to get his feet going,” Beckwith said. “Typically, he likes to finish games stronger which I like to see.”

Kennett and Gilford-Belmont met in Gilford on Oct. 10 with the Eagles beating the Golden Eagles 27-7. Chris Koroski scored three short rushing touchdowns and Bennett also found the end zone in the win.

Beckwith is looking forward to the playoffs.

“I believe we’re ready,” he said. “We played very well in that first game defensively. We were able to force several three and outs. I feel good how we are going to attack them.”

Beckwith added: “At this point in the playoffs, we’ve got to take smart chances, focus on what we need to do well and do it better.”

Kennett has 13 seniors on this year’s roster in Cole Salyards, Parker Coleman, Noah Barrows, Atticus Fayle, Thomas Troon, Ethan Baillargeon, Evan Dascoulias, Kyle Perry, Gaven Gagne, Braden Santuccio, Heath Woodward, Mason Smith and Bobby Graustein.

“We’ve got to take things one day at a time,” said Beckwith. “This morning I had guys coming up to me asking what’s going on in Plymouth. Apparently, they shut down for one day (on Tuesday) for (coronavirus) contact tracing but were back in school (Wednesday). This is just another reminder of how we have to cherish every day.”

Teams were placed into four regional clusters for the playoffs, and while in sports like soccer, field hockey and volleyball schools were placed into a hat and drawn at random for seedings and home teams. In football, the NHIAA assigned seedings for teams based on records.

“I’m happy with how it turned out,” Beckwith said. “Plymouth earned the No. 1 seed in our cluster. Yes, we’d prefer to play a home game if we could, but to be honest, we play better on the road and are not afraid to do it. We would like to see Plymouth again.”

Plymouth beat Kennett 21-20, rallying from a 20-6 fourth-quarter deficit in Conway on Oct. 3.

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