It may have been the biggest win of the season for the Winthrop/Monmouth football team. But according to coach Dave St. Hilaire, it wasn’t perfect.

The Ramblers came up with big plays and big stops en route to a 19-0 victory over Poland on Friday night, but even in the moments immediately following the win, St. Hilaire was thinking about one of his team’s flaws. The Ramblers have struggled to run the ball consistently this season, and even in victory, St. Hilaire hadn’t seen enough to be convinced that the woes on the ground were over.

“We’ve got to get better running the ball,” he said. “We made a lot of nice plays, but we’ve got to clean up some stuff that, as we play better teams going forward, we need to be better ourselves.”

The overall stats weren’t bad — the Ramblers ran 39 times for 180 yards, a 4.6 average — but Winthrop/Monmouth struggled both to break long runs and gain ground as they got deeper into Knights territory. That transpired in series after series that threatened but didn’t result in points, with one reaching the Poland 19-yard line (during which the Ramblers lost 2 yards on a second-and-4 run from the 17, leading to a turnover on downs) and another stalling at the Poland 31 (after a run for a loss of 3 yards on second-and-7 from the 28).

There were bright spots, however. Abram Sirois, injured early in the season, ran 18 times for 82 yards, gaining 50 of those yards in the second half as Winthrop/Monmouth closed out the victory.

“It’s his second game playing fullback, last week he looked uncomfortable, he’s been out all year with a knee injury,” St. Hilaire said. “But he looked more comfortable tonight. He did very well.”

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A four-game losing streak has Oak Hill, in coach Stacen Doucette’s words, “fighting for (their) playoff lives.” That fight will have to continue without one of the Raiders’ key pieces.

Austin Pierce, a starter at tight end and outside linebacker, broke his collarbone in a loss to Wells on Sept. 30 and will miss the remainder of the season. He was out of the Raiders’ loss to Madison on Saturday, standing on the sideline with his arm in a sling.

Doucette didn’t mince words when talking about the senior standout’s absence, which will be felt on both sides of the ball but especially on offense, where he was a versatile contributor and where there is more youth and inexperience.

“He was our second-best receiver,” Doucette said. “Pretty good receiver, and he was a communicator and he was a talker in the huddles.”

Pierce suffered the injury early in the second quarter against the Warriors after hauling in a 10-yard reception. The Wells linebacker making the tackle went down with Pierce and drove the shoulder into the ground, causing the break.

“He made a nice catch, nice run,” Doucette said. “It was the just the finish on the play.”

Pierce was also a sure tackler on defense and solid in coverage (he returned an interception for a touchdown against Yarmouth), though Doucette said the leadership void can be the hardest one to fill.

“Sometimes, it isn’t what’s on the field that hurts when you lose a player,” he said. “Sometimes, what they bring to the table emotionally and leadership-wise, that’s tough. It’s going to be tough to lose that.”

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A five-game losing streak hasn’t done anything to help Gardiner’s playoff odds. But it hasn’t doomed them, either.

The Tigers are reeling after suffering their fifth straight defeat — and second by blowout — in a 41-7 loss to Winslow on Saturday, but even at 1-5, their postseason picture is hardly bleak. According to mainehighschoolfootball.com, Gardiner sits in fourth place in Class C South, ahead of 5-1 Morse and 4-2 Cape Elizabeth and Lake Region. The top eight teams make the playoffs, and with a game against 1-5 Freeport up next, the Tigers will have a chance to both end their skid and add to their Heal points haul.

Gardiner has played a difficult schedule so far, with their opponents having gone a combined 29-7. That schedule has been the saving grace, however; Gardiner’s lone win came against Morse, which has one of the region’s best records, giving the Tigers an impressive win on their resume.

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Just for fun, let’s play a game of what if. What if Maine high school football playoffs were still determined using the Crabtree point formula, instead of Heal points? The biggest difference in the systems is, Crabtree points reward playing a tough schedule, while Heal points reward wins over good teams. For example, using Crabtree points, Messalonskee gets credit for playing Kennebunk (6-0) and Falmouth (4-2). Using Heal points, those games don’t help Messalonskee, as each was a loss.

Let’s look at the Pine Tree Conference Class B, aka Class B North. With three teams sitting 4-2 and no favorite even this late in the season, the league’s playoff seeding is wide open. Currently, the top six teams in the Heal point standings, in order are Lawrence (4-2), Messalonskee (4-2), Brewer (2-4), Skowhegan (3-3), Cony (4-2) and Mt. Blue (1-5).

When the teams are ranked using Crabtree points, there are some changes. Messalonskee leaps over Lawrence to the top seed, thanks to an opponents’ record (15-21) that is one win better than Lawrence’s (14-22). Skowhegan jumps to third place. Skowhegan’s opponents are 18-18, and that’s enough to keep them ahead of Cony, who have played the weakest schedule so far of the playoff contenders (10-26). Still, at 4-2, Cony moves up one spot to fourth.

Brewer’s tough schedule (20-16) so far isn’t enough for the Witches to overcome a 2-4 record, and using Crabtree points, Brewer falls to fifth place. Brunswick is winless, but the Dragons opponents are 25-11, the toughest in the conference so far, and that’s enough to push Brunswick into the sixth and final playoff spot over one-win Mt. Blue.

All the playoff positioning will sort itself out in the next two weeks. Lawrence has games remaining against Skowhegan and Messalonskee. Cony plays Messalonskee this week. Mt. Blue and Brunswick also meet this week. No system is perfect, and no matter what formula you use, good teams will be playing in November.

Staff writer Travis Lazarczyk contributed to this report.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

dbonifant@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM