READFIELD — Nate Henderson was tough to stop on Friday night whether he was wearing No. 24, 50 or 8.

The Traip Academy fullback — who is listed on the roster as No. 24, wore No. 50 in the first half and finished the game in jersey No. 8 — helped power the Rangers’ second-half renaissance in a 19-7 victory over the Black Bears at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams.

“He had a big impact,” Maranacook junior quarterback/safety Kyle Morand said. “We were trying to key on him to see where they were going to go with the ball, because usually he would either be running or leading.

“We tried to look to where he was going and stop it there but he played good. He had a good game.”

After getting just one touch in the first half as No. 50, Henderson began to make his presence felt as No. 8 in the second half — both as a runner and a blocker.

“We have new shirts coming but we didn’t get them yet so we’re shuffling numbers around,” Traip coach Ron Ross said. “…(Henderson) was the spark we needed. He’s a team leader, he’s a senior, he’s worked for this and in the second half he put the team on his back and we finished it.”

Traip’s first drive of the third quarter ended when Morand picked off Angelo Succi, but just five plays later Maranacook gave the ball back when Morand was intercepted by David Gibson.

The Rangers — who trailed 7-0 at the break — responded with a heavy dose of Henderson with the speedy Anthony Sowell providing a change of pace on a drive that began on the Black Bears 42-yard line. Henderson carried the ball six times on the drive for 25 yards, while Sowell had three rushes for 21 yards — the last of which a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The point after attempt was no good, however, giving Maranacook a 7-6 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.

The final frame would be all Rangers though.

Following a three-and-out from Maranacook, Traip began what would be the go-ahead drive from the Black Bears 44-yard line.

The Rangers twice converted fourth down plays on the possession, one a 3-yard run from Angelo Succi on 4th-and-1 from the 32 and another a 12-yard pass from Succi to Joe Cavanagh on 4th-and-6 from the 16. Following the second conversion Maranacook had an opportunity to halt the drive after a fumbled handoff from Succi to Henderson, but could not secure the ball despite getting to it first.

On the next play, the Rangers ran a misdirection play to the right that got Cavanagh on the outside, and the sophomore back — who left earlier in the game with an injury but returned — did the rest. He split a pair of Maranacook defenders at the 10-yard line before plunging into the end zone for the 21-yard score with just 4:15 left in the game.

Traip tacked on one more score for good measure, as a fumble recovery by Colin Macomber set up a 4-yard touchdown run from Sowell with 2:09 remaining in the game to seal the Black Bears’ fate.

“We started off pretty strong there and we had it going close for a while,” Morand said. “We just lost it in the end.

“…We started missing tackles and losing momentum. They just started to run with it and we never got our heads back up.”

The start could not have been a better one for Maranacook, as it avoided near disaster initially and turned it into an early lead.

After the Black Bears failed to pick up a first down on their first possession, Jake Gibson’s punt was blocked and returned to the Black Bears 20. Succi then found Gibson for an 18-yard gain, but two plays later Maranacook’s defense forced and recovered a fumble on a Succi sneak to keep Traip off the board.

Maranacook jumped ahead on the second play of the second quarter when Morand hit Gibson in the back of the end zone on a seven-yard touchdown pass, but unfortunately for the Black Bears they could not keep momentum going in the second half.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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