WINTHROP — It was the drive for which the Poland Regional High School football team had been waiting the entire half. The Knights were deep in Winthrop/Monmouth territory, on the verge of points, a play away from a touchdown that would allow them to go into halftime with a lead they could possibly parlay into their first win of the season. The big play was, indeed, right around the corner.

It was the Ramblers, however, doing the celebrating.

Morgan Bellemare recorded an end zone interception that led to a Ramblers touchdown just seconds before halftime, providing the turning point in what became Winthrop/Monmouth’s 19-0 victory over Poland on Friday night.

“These last two games, we’ve really gotten it together,” said Bellemare, whose team won its second straight game to improve to 3-3.

Trailing 6-0, Poland (0-6) was looking to sneak away at halftime with the lead, marching from its 31-yard line and reaching the Winthrop/Monmouth 12 in the final minute before the break. The Ramblers rose to stuff a third-and-2 attempt, however, and on fourth down quarterback Brady Downing rolled out to his right, looking for a receiver in the middle of heavy traffic on the right side of the end zone.

The throw never had a chance, with Ramblers cornerback Dylan Lajoie getting a hand on it and tipping it right to Bellemare for the interception. Bellemare rumbled down the left sideline, setting the Ramblers up with the ball at their 30-yard line with a mere 23 seconds to go.

Even with the poor field position and time constraints, Winthrop/Monmouth got aggressive, with coach Dave St. Hilaire opting to roll the dice due both to Bellemare’s return and the voice of senior receiver Greg Fay in his ear.

“We were going to take a knee,” St. Hilaire said, “but Greg came up to me and said ‘Coach, I can run a hitch-and-go, and I can beat the guy.’ ”

St. Hilaire listened and went with the pass play, a decision that worked out perfectly when quarterback Keegan Choate found Fay flying all alone down the left sideline. Fay (two catches, 68 yards) was tackled at the 8-yard line with 13.7 seconds to go, and after an incomplete pass, Choate found Cameron Gaghan on an out with a perfect touch pass over the Poland defense for a 12-0 lead with four seconds to go.

“It was just trying to convince him that me and Keegan could really do it,” Fay said. “I knew Keegan could throw a good ball, and I was reading the defender the whole game so I just got out there and trusted my quarterback.”

The Ramblers defense stifled the Knights the rest of the way, and Winthrop/Monmouth added an insurance score when Choate (7-of-19, 143 yards) found Fay on an out to the left from 6 yards out with 6:37 to go. Poland finally returned to Rambler territory on its final drive, reaching the Winthrop/Monmouth 18, but a Lajoie interception ensured the shutout stayed intact.

“We have a lot of defensive goals, and we try to reach those goals,” said Bellemare, whose defense allowed 46 rushing yards on 24 carries. “If we set our expectations high, we’re going to come out with a win.”

Winthrop/Monmouth wasted little time taking control of the game. Poland fumbled the opening kickoff, giving the Ramblers the ball at the Knights’ 41, and Winthrop/Monmouth needed only seven plays to find the end zone. Lajoie took the ball down to the 13 with a 20-yard run on a sweep to the left, Choate scrambled for seven yards to the 3 on a third-and-7, and Abram Sirois surged in for the score on a 3-yard run with 8:30 left in the first quarter.

The Ramblers flirted with another haymaker on the scoreboard on ensuing possessions, but couldn’t land the finishing blow. Winthrop/Monmouth reached the Poland 19 on its second drive but turned the ball over on downs, and reached the Knights’ 29 on the following possession before a Choate throw to the end zone was undercut by Downing for an interception. A third Ramblers drive made it to the 31 before coming up empty on fourth down, allowing Poland to begin its final drive before the half.

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM