WINSLOW — Nobody thought it was going to be easy. Certainly none of the Winslow High School football players and coaches. Moments after the Black Raiders beat rival Waterville, 49-18, to claim the Eastern Class C title, Winslow senior co-captain Zach Guptill glanced at the scoreboard and shook his head.

“We really stepped it up. We took advantage of what we were given. We did our individual tasks as well as we could, and it turned out in our favor,” Guptill said.

Winslow, now 9-1, will play in the Class C state championship game for the second consecutive season. The Black Raiders will face old Pine Tree Conference rival Leavitt (10-0) at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland next Saturday, at a time to be determined.

“We seem to be peaking pretty good the last couple of weeks. I guess we have one more time to do it,” Winslow head coach Mike Siviski said. “Waterville avenged their loss last week (a 42-27 win over Mt. Desert Island), and we avenged our only loss this week. A nice complete team effort. Waterville is a good team, and we’re surprised by the margin.”

Waterville ends the season at 8-2.

“Winslow did a great job with a lot of formations and different defensive looks. It was just a little bit too much for us to overcome,” Waterville head coach Frank Knight said. “We gave it our all. They were a better team. They had a better team on the field today.”

Waterville won the regular-season game between these teams three weeks ago, 25-21. On Saturday at Poulin Field, the Black Raiders started to pull away in the second quarter, and led 28-12 at the half. In the third quarter, Winslow was in complete control.

On the first drive of the third quarter, Jacob Trask intercepted a Waterville pass near midfield and returned the ball to the Purple Panthers’ 35. Three plays later, Guptill (10 carries for 58 yards) scored on a 10-yard touchdown run for a 35-12 lead.

After Waterville lost the ball on a fake punt at the Winslow 42 on its next possession, the Black Raiders went 58 yards in eight plays, scoring on Matt Fortier’s 8-yard run for a 42-12 lead. On Winslow’s next drive, Fortier ran 45 yards to the Waterville 2, setting up Dylan Hapworth’s 2-yard touchdown run with 41.7 seconds left in the third quarter, and a 49-12 lead.

“We didn’t let up at all. We usually get going in the second half. We knew this game meant a lot,” Guptill said.

In last week’s win over Belfast, the Black Raiders controlled the game by running the ball for more than 400 yards. On Saturday, the Black Raiders came out more balanced. Three of Winslow’s first five plays were passes, and quarterback Bobby Chenard was 7 for 9 for 105 yards.

“We thought they would be expecting us to just run run run. We have a few things we can do. So we tried to loosen them up,” Siviski said.

Another key for Winslow was preventing turnovers. In the regular-season game against the Panthers, the Black Raiders committed four turnovers. On Saturday, Winslow gave the ball up just once, a first quarter fumble that led to Waterville’s first touchdown.

“We didn’t put the ball on the ground as much. We didn’t make many mistakes. We worked really hard in practice all week, and it carried over into the game,” Guptill said.

Defensively, the Black Raiders moved players along the defensive line to keep Waterville’s strong running game off-balance. All-conference defensive tackle Aaron Lint moved to the strong side of the line on each play, and the Panthers gained just 93 yards on 37 carries, 2.5 yards per run.

“It was just amazing. We had a whole new plan going on there,” Lint said.

Winslow took a 7-0 lead when Hapworth (21 carries for 142 yards) scored on a 14-yard run with 8:37 left in the first quarter. After recovering a Winslow fumble, Waterville scored when Troy Gurski caught a 21-yard pass from Aidan FitzGerald with 1:25 left in the first quarter. The kick was wide, and Winslow led, 7-6.

The Black Raiders answered with a 1-yard keeper by Chenard on fourth and goal from inside the 1 just 59 seconds into the second quarter. After a Waterville turnover, Hapworth scored on a 24-yard run for a 21-6 Winslow lead.

FitzGerald threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jordhan Levine (eight catches for 98 yards) with 2:40 to play in the first half, cutting Waterville’s deficit to 21-12, but Winslow answered with an eight-play, 50-yard scoring drive when Hapworth scored on a 1-yard run with 24 seconds left in the second quarter.

FitzGerald (9 for 19 for 119 yards) and Levine connected again on the final play of the game, for a 27-yard touchdown pass as time expired.

Dan Pooler had 16 carries for 63 yards for Waterville, but was injured on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, and played sparingly in the second half.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242[email protected]Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM