By Jeff Hamrick email@example.com
---- — Windham football fought the defending champs before falling in the NH Division 4 semifinals.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Windham wasted no time letting Trinity know this wasn’t last week. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, while the process was much improved, the product remained the same.
Seven days after a 35-point blowout loss, Windham held a fourth-quarter lead. But the defending champion Pioneers rallied for a 20-13 victory in the Division 4 semifinals at Gill Stadium.
Second-seeded Trinity (9-1) will play top-seeded Plymouth in next week’s championship in a rematch of last year’s title game.
“We thought we had a pretty good game plan coming in,” said Windham coach Bill Raycraft, whose offense ran 23 more plays and gained 204 yards more than it did in the 42-7 defeat in the regular-season finale. “Unfortunately we had a few miscues and took some chances and came up on the short end of the stick.”
The biggest gamble came late in the opening half on a fourth-and-10 at the Windham 35. When Kevin Cooney gained only five yards on the fake punt, Trinity made the Jaguars pay three plays later with a touchdown and a 12-7 halftime lead.
“The wind was picking up and quarterback/punter Joe (Lorenz) didn’t feel comfortable kicking at that point and I agreed with him,” Raycraft said. “We had a couple options. If I could put the ball in Kevin Cooney’s hands, I’m going to do it 10 times out of 10.”
Windham (7-3) gained 127 yards on its first two possessions, but the output yielded only Cooney’s 18-yard scoring run for a 7-0 lead early in the second period.
The Jaguars once again grabbed the advantage late in the third quarter when Thomas Anderson capped an 11-play, 60-yard drive that consumed 4:43 with a 10-yard scoring run on fourth-and-4.
“We had a fantastic week of practice,” Raycraft said. “Hurricane Sandy on Monday (which shutdown the school day) gave us a chance to have some fun and do some meetings. From Monday on we were confident. I don’t think there was a coach or player that didn’t think we would walk off this field a winner.”
That 13-12 advantage didn’t last long, however, as Trinity responded with a 13-play, 73-yard game-winning drive that ate up half of the final period.
Leaving a legacy: The senior class will be remembered as the group that established Windham’s football program. After losing eight of nine its sophomore season, the senior corps went 8-3 and lost the Division 5 title game last year before moving up a division and shining once again.
“We took some beatings, but this is the tightest group I’ve ever coached,” said Raycraft, who doubles as the school’s athletic director. “I’m going to miss these guys a lot. I just told them they raised the bar awful high, so the underclassmen better be ready.”
Even after the difficult loss at least one player understood what the past three years established.
“It means a lot to us,” Danny Cannone said. “As you can see, it’s real emotional. We’re the ones that set the foundation and built the tradition of the school.”
Impressing the opposition: While Trinity stopped Windham’s fake punt attempt, its coach was caught completely off guard.
“That was huge,” Steve Burns said. “We were not expecting a fake punt at that point. That was a gutsy, gutsy call.”
Trinity 20, Windham 13
Div. 4 Semifinals
Windham (7-3): 0 7 6 0 — 13
Trinity (9-1): 0 12 0 8 — 20
W — Kevin Cooney 18 run (Anthony Gallo kick), 8:34
T — Ryan Carrier 4 run (run failed), 3:50
T — Austin Chambers 6 run (run failed), 1:07
W — Thomas Anderson 10 run (run failed), 0:21
T — Tristan Theroux 8 pass from Carmen Giampetruzzi (Carrier run) 6:05
RUSHING: W (52-237) — Cooney 16-102, Danny Cannone 20-87, Anderson 9-37, Joe Lorenz 7-11; T (46-272) — Romeo Masuku 13-134, Carrier 19-98, Chambers 8-38, Giampetruzzi 6-2
PASSING: W — Lorenz 5-12-0, 53; T — Giampetruzzi 6-7-0, 123, Chambers 0-1-0
RECEIVING: W — Anderson 3-28, Cannone 2-25; T — Theroux 2-44, Ryan Boldwin 2-31, Masuku 1-34, Brad Rhodes 1-14