HAMPTON — The goal was to start a new win streak.
Instead, the losing streak increased to two for the Division I defending state champions.
The Winnacunnet High School football team, after taking advantage of a short field and scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the opening minute of the third quarter, turned the ball over on its next four possessions and dropped a 20-13 decision to Salem on Friday night in a Division I game at Alumni Field.
“We’re not playing well right now,” Winnacunnet coach Ron Auffant said. “We’re not making plays and we’re having too many turnovers; you’re not going to win many games with four turnovers.”
Salem improved to 5-2, while Winnacunnet dropped to 5-2.
“Our defense played great tonight,” Salem coach Rob Pike said. “That Winnacunnet offense is difficult to defend, but if your defense executes and can win some one-on-one battles and block some things you can slow them down enough, and I think that’s what we did tonight."
It was a Salem turnover that gave Winnacunnet some hope late in the fourth quarter.
Salem quarterback Kyle Poulin had his third-and-15 pass from the Winnacunnet 40 deflected by Lou Granger at the 10. Winnacunnet’s Tyler Hoar was there to grab the deflection, giving Winnacunnet the ball at their own 8 with 4:59 left, trailing 20-13.
Winnacunnet quarterback Joe LaRosa extended the drive, connecting with Jordan Fuller for 16 yards on third-and-9 with just over 4 minutes left. LaRosa and Hoar then picked up 14 yards on third-and-12 and the Warriors had a first down at midfield with 1:47 to play.
James Ference, on third-and-4 from the Salem 44, intercepted LaRosa for the second time, giving Salem the ball at its own 17 with 1:11 left. LaRosa was trying to hit Granger in the middle of the field but overthrew the senior back.
Salem’s William Michaud picked up 3 yards on first down and Brandon Wall was stopped for no gain on second. Winnacunnet used timeouts at the end of each play, setting up a third-and-7 with 42 seconds left.
Winnacunnet’s James Phennicie stopped Poulin for a 3-yard gain and Salem, with Winnacunnet out of timeouts, let the clock tick down to 10 seconds before calling a timeout of its own.
Salem punter Zachary Gibbons was under pressure, but just got the kick off and Winnacunnet took over at the Salem 48 with 10 seconds to play. LaRosa misfired on first and second down, setting up third-and-10 with 1 second left.
Brendan Kacmarcik got the initial handoff and the Warriors had a handful of laterals before finally being tackled for a minimal gain.
“We never really got into a rhythm on offense,” Auffant said. “We couldn’t run the ball consistently, and we didn’t play very well tonight. We didn’t play smart tonight.”
Winnacunnet took the lead early in the second half thanks to a Salem turnover.
LaRosa, who completed 6 of 19 passes for 59 yards, connected with senior Joe MacDougall (2 catches, 15 yards) on a 7-yard scoring strike on fourth-and-3 with 9:55 left in the third, giving Winnacunnet a 13-7 lead.
Winnacunnet got the short field thanks to a Keith Albergo fumble recovery at the Salem 17 on the Blue Devils’ first play of the second half.
The momentum, and the lead, was short-lived for Winnacunnet.
Michaud broke free for 74 yards and a touchdown on Salem’s second play on the ensuing possession. Salem’s kick, like Winnacunnet’s previously, was blocked and the score was tied 13-13 with 9:01 left in the third.
“Broken coverage there,” Auffant said. “We’re in a certain coverage, everybody is doing their job and one guy didn’t and they got that run; that was huge.”
The Warriors drove down to the Salem 33 on their next drive before James Ference intercepted LaRosa at the Salem 23; a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Winnacunnet moved the ball to the 38.
Poulin hit Gibbons for 32 yards on first down, bringing the ball to the Winnacunnet 30. Poulin, eight plays later, hit Michael Ference for a 15-yard touchdown with 1:56 left in the third, giving Salem its 20-13 lead. Poulin completed 7 of his 12 pass attempts for 112 yards, including two touchdowns.
“We had some breakdowns in the secondary,” Auffant said. “Our secondary has to play better; that’s where we feel we have a lot of experience and we have to fix that.”
Winnacunnet jumped out to a 7-0 lead after the opening quarter. The Warriors went three-and-out on their first drive, not picking up a yard. Salem was held to just seven yards on its first drive of the game, giving the ball back to Winnacunnet.
The Warriors got the ball at midfield and went on a 10-play drive, ending with Fuller’s 1-yard run up the middle. Fuller carried seven times for 43 yards on the drive. He finished the half with nine carries for 49 yards, and finished the game with 67 yards on 14 carries.
BLUE DEVILS 20, WARRIORS 13
Salem 0 7 13 0—20
Winnacunnet 7 0 6 0 —13
Win—Fuller 1 run (Madore kick), 2:16.
Sal—Ference 4 pass from Poulin (Gibbons kick), 1:06.
Win—MacDougall 7 pass from LaRosa (kick fail), 9:55.
Sal—Michaud 74 run (kick fail), 9:01.
Sal—Ference 15 pass from Poulin (Gibbons kick), 1:56.
RUSHING—Salem, Michaud 10-118, Mulvey 13-63, Wall 12-19, Poulin 3-16. Winnacunnet, Fuller 14-67, Granger 7-55, LaRosa 12-29, Kacmarcik 5-15.
PASSING—Salem, Poulin 7-12-106 (2 TDs, INT). Winnacunnet, LaRosa 6-19-59 (TD, 3 INTs).
RECEIVING—Salem, Gibbons 2-43, Wall 2-24, Ference 2-19, Mulvey 1-20. Winnacunnet, Fuller 1-16, MacDougall 2-15, Hoar 1-14, Kacmarcik 1-9, Chase 1-5.