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Defense sparks Gilford-Belmont to big win over Pembroke

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by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Salmon Press Newspapers

Riley Marsh breaks up a Pembroke pass in action on Saturday night. (Photo by Joshua Spaulding) (click for larger version)
September 16, 2021
GILFORD — From all accounts, Breaking Benjamin put on a pretty good show at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion on Saturday night.

Across Route 11 at The Meadows, the Gilford-Belmont football team put on a pretty good show of their own, coming up with five interceptions on the way to 28-7 win over Pembroke under the lights.

"All week we talked about Pembroke's ability to pass the ball," said Gilford-Belmont head coach Josh Marzahl. "We thought that if we could stop 84 on the run, we'd be OK.

"I thought the defense, in the secondary did a great job today," the Golden Eagle coach added, crediting defensive coordinator Mo Reese with the strong game plan.

The two teams battled through a scoreless first quarter, with neither team able to get on the board. G-B stopped a Pembroke run on fourth and one on the Spartans' first drive, but Gilford had to punt on their first two drives. Riley Marsh made a nice breakup of a Pembroke pass on third and 13, forcing a Spartan punt. Quarterback Isaiah Reese hit Austin Normandin for a first down on Gilford-Belmont's third drive, but the Golden Eagles were still eventually forced to punt. Alex Waite made a nice stop on Pembroke's next drive and Michael Macaione had a sack as G-B forced another punt.

The Golden Eagles fumbled the ball away on their next drive, but on the fourth play of Pembroke's ensuing drive, Marsh came away with the first of his two interceptions on the day, setting up Gilford at the 40 as the clock ran out on the first quarter.

The hosts appeared to have the lead on the second play of the second quarter, as Reese hit Logan Grant with a touchdown pass from 37 yards out, but it was called back by a penalty and G-G-B was eventually forced to punt.

However, Marsh got his second interception two plays later and Gilford-Belmont needed just three plays to get in the end zone, with Normandin taking a pass from Reese and bulling his way through the defense and into the end zone. Grant booted the extra point and the Golden Eagles led 7-0 with 8:25 to go in the first half.

The Gilford-Belmont defense held tight on the next Spartan drive, but the offense also could not convert and they had to punt on their next drive. Pembroke moved the ball down the field, eating up the majority of the first half clock, but Michael Kitto came up with a huge interception with 27 seconds to go, giving the Golden Eagles the ball at the 50. Normandin caught a screen pass for 33 yards to get inside the 20, but that was as far as they got and the game went to the half with Gilford-Belmont up 7-0.

The defense continued to shine in the second half, as Hutch Haskins got the third interception of the night for the Golden Eagles just three plays in and the hosts needed just four plays to get to the end zone, Reese and Normandin carried the ball inside the 20 and Reese carried in from 13 yards out with 9:07 to go and Grant's extra point made it 14-0 for Gilford-Belmont.

After the Spartans went three and out, Gilford-Belmont got runs from Normandin, Reese and Luke Loyer but could not convert on a fourth and four and the Spartans took over. A big pass up the middle set up the Spartans at the one before Luke Jackson got in the backfield to push them back. However, Pembroke was eventually able to get the touchdown pass with 3:13 to go to cut the lead to 14-7.

Gilford-Belmont got the ball back and moved the ball to close out the third quarter, with Normandin catching a pass from Reese and Reese, Kitto and Normandin running the ball inside the 20 to start the fourth quarter.

On the second play of the final frame, Normandin broke free from a pile of players and ran into the end zone from 21 yards out. Grant's extra point put the lead to 21-7.

Once again, the defense shined, as Haskins came up with his second pick of the day on Pembroke's next drive, but Gilford-Belmont was forced to punt away on its next drive. The Golden Eagles did manage to stop the Spartans on their next drive and got the ball back.

Five plays later, Kitto barreled into the end zone from one yard out for the touchdown and the 28-7 lead with less than a minute to play and Gilford-Belmont had their second win of the season.

The Golden Eagles started the game with a presentation to the family of Gilford student Aydin Kutuk, who passed away earlier in the week. While he was not on the football team, Marzahl noted that his death had an impact on the team.

"It was important for them to be able to come to football," the Gilford-Belmont coach said. "It was a good outlet for them to be with their friends.

"It was an emotional week and we gave some of the kids some days off," Marzahl continued. "They latched on to the idea of doing this for their friend."

The Gilford-Belmont mentor also went on to thank MB Tractor, who supplied the lights for the night game on the field at The Meadows.

"The crowd we get for this night game is exponentially bigger than any game all year," Marzahl said. "It's a good thing for the community to get to come out and see football."

He also praised the work of Reese, who stepped into the quarterback role when his brother, Malik, went down with an injury prior to the start of the season,

"He puts in the work and athleticism makes up for his lack of experience," the Gilford-Belmont coach said. "Every day, he's learning."

Gilford-Belmont will be on the road at Kingswood on Friday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m.

Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or josh@salmonpress.news.

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