OAKLAND — Trailing by one point to Hampden Academy with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left, the Messalonskee High School football team took the ball at its own 43-yard line. Not much was said.
“This is it. We have to convert,” guard Caleb Bean said. “There’s nothing after that, so…”
So, the Eagles went 57 yards in seven plays, scoring on Corey McKenzie’s 7-yard run with 1:41 left in the game. After Devin Warren caught a Jake Dexter pass on the 2-point conversion, a fake extra point kick, the Eagles had a 28-21 lead. When Dexter intercepted Hampden’s Matt Martin at the Messalonskee 15 with 53 seconds left, the Eagles had the Pine Tree Conference Class B quarterfinal win.
“I was just kind of like a center fielder at that point. They’re trying to get the ball down the field. He’s just trying to make a play, and I was right there,” Dexter said.
The No. 3 seed, Messalonskee is now 6-3 and will play at No. 2 Cony (6-2) in the semifinals. No. 6 Hampden ends the season 5-4.
“It just seemed we weren’t into it at the start. I don’t know why. What a resilent group of kids. They don’t quit,” Messalonskee head coach Brad Bishop said. “They were quiet tonight. They didn’t have the same zip they had the last couple of games, but we’ll take it and we’ll go down to Augusta and see what happens down there.”
Dexter carried the ball four times for 19 yards on Messalonskee’s final scoring drive, and his 25-yard pass to Warren set the Eagles up first and goal from the 9 with just under two minutes to play. After Dexter ran to the left for 2 yards, McKenzie scored the game-winning touchdown on a toss to the right.
“We’ve got a threat at quarterback. He can run around and make something out of nothing. He’s a hell of an athlete. I’d rather have him on our team than any other team,” Bishop said.
Neither team ever led by more than a touchdown, and Martin scored on a 3-yard run with 7:17 left to give the Broncos a 21-20 lead. Martin is a threat to throw and run, but the Messalonskee defense did a nice job containing him throughout the game, holding the Hampden quarterback to 31 yards on the ground and 152 in the air.
“Everybody stayed home. Stay home and make sure they don’t get us on a draw. (Martin’s) a good runner,” Bean, who had 2 1/2 sacks, said.
Added Dexter, who also had an interception in the second quarter: “We played pretty sound. We bent but we didn’t break. They’re going to put up some points. They’ve got a pretty good offense.”
The Broncos scored first, taking advantage of a Messalonskee fumble on the opening kickoff. After taking the ball at the Eagles’ 39, Hampden scored in four plays, taking a 7-0 lead when Martin ran in from the 4.
Messalonskee answered on the ensuing drive, scoring when Dexter hit Zach Mathieu for a 10-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was wide, and Hampden held a 7-6 lead.
Messalonskee took its first lead with 4:36 left in the second, when Dexter and McKenzie (65 yards rushing, 62 yards receiving) connected on a 55-yard touchdown pass. McKenzie eluded a pair of tacklers and outran the Broncos defense for the score and a 12-7 lead.
A few minutes later, facing fourth and 7 from their own 42, the Broncos went for it. Martin threw to Matt Closson, split wide to the right, at the line of scrimmage. Closson eluded a handful of tacklers before sprinting down the sideline for the touchdown and a 14-12 Hampden lead at the half.
Messalonskee took the lead back with 7:05 left in the third, on a 29-yard pass from Dexter to Warren, who juggled the ball before gaining control and reaching the end zone. Dexter ran in the 2-point conversion for a 20-14 lead.
Martin’s second touchdown run, this time from 3-yards out, gave the Broncos the lead with 7:12 to play in the game, and capped a 12 play, 87 yard drive.
During the game, Hampden head coach Kevin Canty cited a pair of holding calls against his team he disagreed with, and after the game, was critical of the officials.
“To be honest with you, the refs blew this. They took it away from our kids. It’s the worse freaking referee job I’ve seen in my life,” Canty said. “They didn’t want us to win… Is that team better than us? No. They’re not better than us. But I felt like from the first of the game, the referees controlled the game, and they took it from our kids.”
Isiah Olson ran for a game-high 108 yards for Hampden, including a 52-yard run in the first quarter on which Warren made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Messalonskee 28.