Waterville hangs on to top Belfast
WATERVILLE -- The Waterville football team passed another playoff test, holding off a third quarter comeback bid and beating Belfast 31-14 in a Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinal Saturday afternoon at Drummond Field.
Waterville (6-4), the No. 6 seed, knocked off No. 3 Hampden Academy in the first round and now advances to face No. 1 Mt. Blue (10-0) at Kemp Field for the PTC B title. No. 7 Belfast ends the season 5-5.
Waterville jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held Belfast to just 24 total yards before momentum suddenly shifted to the Lions. Belfast drove 73 yards in nine plays and Carl Dodge scored from 2-yards out with 17 seconds left in the first half to cut the Panthers lead to 11.
Belfast had possession to start the second half and drove 63 yards to get within three, 17-14.
"We had to readjust our mindset," Waterville coach Frank Knight said. "Belfast came at us and put on a charge."
Waterville turned to its big line of Tom Cox (280 pounds), Ben Cox (230) and Connor McLeod (295) to shift the game back in its favor. The unit opened holes on offense and the Cox brothers chased down the speedy Belfast backs.
The Purple Panthers responded immediately, driving 59 yards in 11 plays, featuring the running of Cameron Thomas (three carries for 14 yards) and the pinpoint passing of quarterback Aidan FitzGerald, who completed a pair of crucial 11-yard passes to Jordhan Levine to keep the drive alive.
FitzGerald threw a 16-yard TD pass to Nick Danner with 3:45 left in the third to push Waterville´s lead to 24-14.
"We´ve been working on those passing plays since this summer and they finally worked," FitzGerald said. "The big crowd we had following us today really helped to give us the confidence to win the game."
On the next series, Belfast started at its own 24 and found no room to run or pass. Back Greg Clark turned to the outside for yardage but was run down by Tom Cox before he could turn the corner on the second and biggest play of the series.
"When they (Belfast) came back on us, we knew the next couple of series we had to do something," Tom Cox said.
"If we could get a three and out it would kill their momentum."
The Purple Panthers drove 71 yards to put the game out of reach when Racean Wood ran around the left end for 9 yards to give Waterville a 31-14 lead with 9:30 left in the game.
Wood, who ran the ball 16 times in the first half, finished with 25 carries and 143 yards.
Waterville jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a pair of touchdown runs by Thomas, who scored from 16 and 3 yards out. Levine added a 26-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead with 7:44 left in the second quarter.