FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue scored on its first two possessions of Friday night’s Pine Tree Conference Class B game against Gardiner at Caldwell Field. But there was still plenty of time left for the Cougars to draw the ire of coach Jim Aylward at halftime.

Riding the momentum of a Nate Pratt-Holt kick return for a touchdown to start the second half, the Cougars dominated the final 24 minutes en route to a 32-0 win over the Tigers.

Christian Whitney rushed 21 times for 141 yards and a touchdown to lead a Mt. Blue offense that outgained Gardiner, 336-85.

Zach Meader (12 carries, 54 yards, TD) and Alex Gilbert (10 carries, 58 yards, TD) helped carry the load in a running game that rolled up 308 yards for the Cougars (4-1).

After holding Gardiner to a three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, the Cougars marched 70 yards, the big play a 28-yard pass from Ryan Pratt to Meader. After a false start pushed the Cougars back 5 yards, Whitney ran it in from 8 yards out for a 7-0 lead.

Gardiner (1-4) punted after three plays again on its next series. This time, Mt. Blue had to go just 53 yards as Gilbert’s 3-yard TD run behind offensive linemen William Gunter and Terry Storer and tight end Isaac Collins made it 14-0.

Helped by six Mt. Blue penalties, the Tigers were able to venture into Cougar territory a couple of times in the first half, but both drives stalled. Meader’s interception halted one drive at the Cougar 19. Caleb Hall sacked Gardiner QB Eli Kropp on their next foray to essentially end another promising drive.

Gardiner had 50 total yards on offense in the half led by Kropp’s 43 yards passing.

Mt. Blue tallied 206 total yards, but the penalties, and consistent pressure put on Pratt by Gardiner’s Spencer King, Ethan Votra, Alex Thang and Josh Farrin, kept the Cougars from finding any rhythm in their passing game and gave Aylward plenty of halftime fodder.

“We have to execute better,” Aylward said. “I don’t want the kids thinking I thought they played well.”

“We tried to play man-to-man and match up our athletes with theirs,” Gardiner coach Joe White said. “The linebacker lost track of Meader and…that really took the wind out of our sails. but we really played some solid defense in the secondary and had good pressure on the quarterback.”

The speedy Pratt-Holt put the pressure right back on the Tigers to start the second half with his 77-yard return to paydirt for a 20-0 lead.

“Kicking it to the fastest kid in the state, taking it to the house, that’s another punch in the gut,” White said.

“We want to run the ball. At the same point, sometimes it’s a detriment to Nate Pratt-Holt’s game,” Aylward said. “Nate’s real unselfish. To see him when he does touch the ball to be able to make big plays, I think good for us but good for him. He’s a terrific kid. We think he’s one of the best players in the league.”

Mt. Blue, helped by a Gilbert interception, limited Gardiner to 1 net yard in the third quarter, and just 15 yards rushing on 17 carries for the game.

The Cougars got their running game going again to put the game out of reach with 7:17 left in the third quarter when Meader scampered 14 yards for his score.

Hall added a 2-yard TD plunge for Mt. Blue, which kept pace with the PTC B leaders with games against Nokomis, Brunswick and Skowhegan looming to end the season.

“We realize what we’re up against. We want to play at home,” Aylward said. “Everyone in the league is trying to get enough wins to play at least one playoff game at home. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33