DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Waterville Senior High School football team wanted a close game. After four blowout wins to open the season, the Purple Panthers felt like they needed a close game.
They don’t come any closer than Waterville’s 20-19 win at Foxcroft Academy on Friday night.
Hunter Smith’s 54-yard touchdown reception from Hunter Law with 1 minute, 53 seconds left in the game pulled Foxcroft to within a point. The Ponies 2-point conversion run was stuffed by the Panthers, who ran out the clock to escape Oakes Field with the win and remain undefeated at 5-0.
“We’ve been preparing very well all week. We had a lot of distractions, including today (Waterville High seniors spent Friday in West Forks, not the classroom). You just have to work through all that stuff. We came out here and played as well as we have all year,” said Waterville quarterback/safety Brian Bellows, who threw two touchdown passes to Jordhan Levine.
Added Waterville head coach Frank Knight: “We needed it. We hadn’t had one. We certainly got one, and that’s a very good football team right there. We feel very fortunate to come out ahead.”
Waterville led 20-7 with 9:52 to play when David Bailey scored on a 5-yard run. The Ponies answered when Law connected with Smith for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 8:21 remaining in the game. Kicker Nate Church, a recent convert from the soccer team playing his first football game, missed the extra point, and Waterville had a 20-13 lead.
The Ponies marched deep into Waterville territory, but Dalton Denis picked off a Law pass at the Waterville 7 with 3:24 to play. Waterville was forced to punt, and Foxcroft took over at its own 46 with 2:09 left, setting up Smith’s touchdown and a tough decision for head coach Danny White, who went for two and the lead.
The Ponies (4-1) had gone for two all season, White said, adding that he didn’t feel comfortable putting a new kicker in the game-tying situation.
“It wouldn’t be fair to him. I was confident in our kids. We just came up short,” White said. “We’ve been going for two all year, other than a kicker fell in our lap this week.”
The Ponies took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Smith (nine catches for 151 yards) caught the first of his three touchdown passes from Law, this one a 25-yarder on fourth-and-8.
Waterville scored twice in the second quarter, each time a 12-yard pass from Bellows to Levine. On the first one, Bellows scrambled to his right before finding Levine in the back of the end zone. Levine leaped to make the catch.
“I didn’t have anybody open at first. I waited, kept my poise in the pocket, and saw him coming on the back side late and got him the ball. He went up there and made a hell of a catch,” Bellows said.
The second Bellows to Levine connection capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive and came with 1:19 left in the half, giving Waterville a 14-7 lead at the break.
Throughout the game, Waterville did a nice job containing Foxcroft’s strong running game. Pete Boyer gained 17 yards on nine carries, while Corey Bjornson gained 32 yards on nine carries.
“We’re pretty tough up front. Our defensive line, we have some pretty trough kids up there. They want to run inside, and we forced them to pass. Unfortunately, they made some of those passes on the run a little bit,” Knight said,
Added White: “Their physicality controlled the majority of the first half and parts of that third quarter. They wore us down physically.”
Dan Pooler gained 89 yards on 17 carries for Waterville. Denis added 67 yards on 10 carries for the Panthers.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242