LINCOLN – The coaches on Mattanawcook Academy’s football team were concerned all week about Friday’s LTC Class C showdown with John Bapst of Bangor, and for good reason.
The visiting Crusaders were 4-2 and making a major playoff push. The Lynx of Lincoln were reeling a bit after an emotional and physical game against unbeaten defending champ Foxcroft Academy in which the Lynx played well enough to win, but lost by six points.
“That was a big game and a tough game for us to come back from in less than a week, and we knew this was going to be a tough team to knock off,” said Mattanawcook head coach Art Greenlaw. “We did it, but it took some big plays to get us by.”
Five big plays, to be exact. Five big plays that led the Lynx past the Crusaders 27-14 on a clear, crisp and chilly night at Alumni Field.
The first came 74 seconds into the game as Mattanawcook fullback Steven Braley burst off right tackle and veered right and outside for a 55-yard touchdown run.
The second came on defense as Isaac Young recovered a Bapst fumble at MA’s 25-yard line when the Crusaders looked prime to take their first lead early in the third quarter.
No. 3 came courtesy of Braley again as the senior broke through the right side of the line for an 83-yard run that set up Gary Perry’s 1-yard TD run that made it 13-7 MA with 3:11 left in the third.
Number four was Nathan Nevells’ recovery of Bapst’s only other fumble to set up a 31-yard, eight-play scoring drive with 10:25 left in the game.
Big play No. 5 was actually a two-part effort turned in by junior wideout Derek Libbey. No. 5A was Libbey’s 6-yard run off a 4th-and-9, hook-and-ladder play on the left sideline in which Jesse Miller caught a 3-yard pass from Shey Gardner and lateraled to Libbey. Libbey completed 5B when he rocketed upward in the right corner of the end zone to bring down a lofty, 15-yard TD pass from Gardner with 7:53 left that proved to be the winning score.
“I told Shey to throw it high and I’d go up and get it,” said Libbey, who completed his highlight-reel effort in the eight-play drive with a one-handed grab of Gardner’s two-point conversion pass. “We thought we needed a big play, we thought we could pull it off, and it worked.”
After MA held Bapst on downs to take over on the JB-33 with 7:23 to go, Brady Vose punctuated a two-play strike with a 43-yard TD run up the right sideline.
Bapst answered with a score, but the 13-play, 83-yard drive was too late and too long to make a difference as Charlie Merritt’s 3-yard TD pass to Ryan Moriarty came with just 59 seconds left. MA’s Nick Leonard caught the ensuing onside kick in the air and the Lynx ran out the rest of the clock.
“You can’t make many mistakes and expect to win a football game, and when you’re playing a good team, you can afford even fewer mistakes,” said Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “We made two or three mistakes that turned into two big plays that cost us the game.”
The biggest of those came when Bapst was driving to take the lead and seemingly wearing MA’s interior linemen down on the opening drive of the second half. Four plays into the second half, the Crusaders appeared to have taken a 13-7 lead on a 54-yard TD pass from Kyle Gallant to Anthony Ortiz. Ortiz caught it in the left flat, broke two tackles, and sprinted on a quick slant right for the score, but the play was called back on an illegal block penalty to the MA-24. Three plays later, Bapst fumbled and Young recovered.
Braley led the MA rushing attack with 158 yards on 10 carries. Vose accounted for 81 yards on 12 carries behind the line of Dan Lifer, Ian Nevells, Nathan Nevells, Matt Brown and Devin Ireland.
“At first they weren’t doing a real good job,” Braley said of his linemen. “They weren’t keeping their blocks and sustaining, but after a while they got mean, they got mad, and they started making some holes for us to run through.”
Merritt led the Crusaders with 144 yards passing. The junior QB finished 12-for-23 on his passing after going 5-for-6 in the first half.
Bapst’s first score capped an 88-yard, nine-play drive and came on a 1-yard TD run by Gallant (62 yards on 17 carries) with 1:12 left in the first.
LYNX 27, CRUSADERS 14
John Bapst (4-3) 7 0 0 7 – 14
Mattanawcook (4-3) 7 0 6 14 – 27
MA – Braley 55 run (Jipson kick)
JB – Gallant 1 run (Gallant kick)
MA – Perry 1 run (kick blocked)
MA – Libbey 15 pass from Gardner (Libbey pass from Gardner)
MA – Vose 43 run (kick failed)
JB – Moriarty 3 pass from Merritt (Gallant kick)
John Bapst MA
First downs 19 7
Rushing att.-yards 44-130 29-246
Passing comp.-att. 15-34 5-13
Passing yards 212 37
Total yards 342 283
Punts-avg. 2-25.0 5-36.4
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-1
Intercepted by 1 0
Penalties-yards 4-30 6-53
John Bapst: Gallant 17-62, Smith 11-46, Merritt 8-11, Huckestein 7-10, Wetherbee 1-1; MA: Braley 10-158, Vose 12-81, Libbey 2-18, Perry 1-1, Gardner 4-(minus 12)
John Bapst: Merritt 12-23-0-144, Gallant 3-10-0-68, Smith 0-1-0-0; MA: Gardner 5-13-1-37
John Bapst: Ortiz 5-71, Healey 1-60, Smith 6-56, Wetherbee 1-12, Huckestein 1-10, Moriarty 1-3; MA: Miller 4-22, Libbey 1-15