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Winnisquam football seizes command in second half in win over Franklin

TILTON – The Winnisquam football team took a six-point lead into halftime, but the scoreboard didn’t reflect the issues that were taking place with the Bears on the field. There were pre-snap and post-snap errors, lots of them – mental mistakes that were especially unwelcome considering the urgency of these final weeks of the season.

The team that returned to the field in the second half looked more like one that knew it had to win to control its destiny for a playoff spot. The Bears ran over Franklin after the break, getting touchdown runs from Christian and Andrew Serrano to turn a close game into a 27-6 rout under the lights on their home field.

“The effort in the second half was much better than the first. The effort in the first was there, we were just making mental mistakes,” Coach Pat Riberdy said. “We knew we could run the ball, we saw that a few times in the first half. Then we cleaned it up, a little bit anyways, and put up some big plays.

The win lifted Winnisquam to 3-3, helping it keep pace in Division III’s North conference with Gilford (3-2), Inter-Lakes Moultonborough (3-2) and Newfound (2-2). The Bears’ final two games are against the latter two teams, and Riberdy said last night marked the start of a stretch in which Winnisquam, frankly, can’t afford to lose.

“At this point, they’re all vital,” he said. “It’s do-or-die now. You’re either going to go out and play football and win some football games, or your season’s going to end.”

Winnisquam never trailed Franklin (0-6) in its first crack at the crunch-time slate, but hardly impressed during a sloppy first half that saw Christian Serrano (16 carries for 146 yards) score on a 3-yard run in the first quarter, but also saw the Bears hurt themselves with two fumbled snaps, five false starts and a delay of game penalty.

Riberdy at one point used a timeout in the second quarter to voice his frustration to the team (“I gave them the business,” he said), but added that going into halftime with only a 6-0 lead was cause enough for his players to up their focus.

“Six-nothing at half, that kind of gave them a wake-up call,” Riberdy said.

It showed from the very first drive after the intermission. Winnisquam’s first play was an 8-yard run for Christian Serrano. Its second play was a 48-yard run for Andrew Serrano. Its third play was a 10-yard run to the left and dive into the end zone for Christian Serrano, who put the Bears up 12-0 after taking up only 1:02 of clock.

That drive just set the storyline for the second half. Winnisquam still made mistakes, committing three more false starts, but a dominant line helped spring Andrew Serrano for a 46-yard scoring jaunt on the next series, and allowed the Bears to maintain a stranglehold on possession the rest of the way.

“When we ran a play, very rarely did we not move the ball,” Riberdy said. “We did a very good job blocking, especially between the tackles. We did an excellent job up the middle.”

Andrew Serrano ran for 182 yards, including 152 in the second half alone, and he and Christian combined for 328 yards on the ground.

“Christian and Andrew ran wild today,” Riberdy said. “They were running really hard. They wanted it.”

Even the passing game clicked late for Winnisquam, as Greg Hunt (3-for-4, 70 yards) put up the Bears’ final score when he led Tim Harmon down the right sideline for a 35-yard touchdown pass.

The Golden Tornadoes had been held in check all game, but found a rhythm on the ensuing series, which was also their final drive of the game. Garrett Fleming connected with Dylan Royer on a pair of rollout passes, totaling 12 and 10 yards, respectively, and the pair used a lucky moment to finally put points up when Fleming’s 4th-and-14 pass went in between two lunging Winnisquam players and was caught by Royer, who raced untouched down the sideline for a 50-yard score.

It mattered little on the scoreboard, but still served as a confidence-boosting play, something the inexperienced Golden Tornadoes and their young quarterback have been trying to gather as the season’s gone on.

“We’re so, so young. We do well, and then we shut down. Where we shut down is the second half,” Coach Jeff Kaplan said. “You saw it tonight, we played a 6-0 first half. … It’s going to come. These (moments) are where they’re going to start, with the growing experience.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

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