It started in 2005, the year both Gardiner and Waterville joined the Pine Tree Conference Class B division. Gardiner took a 27-25 win over Waterville that season, and each season since, the Tigers have defeated the Purple Panthers.

Counting a pair of playoff games, including last season, Gardiner has nine straight wins over Waterville. Both teams are undefeated heading into Saturday’s game at Drummond Field.

“This is certainly our biggest challenge of the year, to date. They’re the program we want to be like. We want to be a football school,” Waterville head coach Frank Knight said. “There’s no secret they’ve had a winning streak against us since we both moved to (Class) B. It’s a big task for us to overcome that mental hurdle.”

Added Gardiner head coach Matt Burgess: “We happened to face them twice last season. Both were very good games, very intense games. We expect a similar game up there at Waterville.”

For the Waterville defense, the main focus is on containing Gardiner quarterback Dennis Meehan.

Meehan did a little of everything for the Tigers in last week’s 31-8 win over Morse. He scored on a 52-yard touchdown run, then returned an interception 55 yards for a score. With his 40-yard field goal, Meehan completed the scored hat trick, scoring on offense, defense and special teams.

“Whenever the ball’s in his hands, he’s a threat to run or throw,” Knight said of Meehan. “He’ll throw back across the field. He’s very athletic. You can’t over commit to him because he’ll take advantage of any mistake you make in your alignment or defensive pursuit. We have to be defensively sound.”

Waterville’s defensive leaders include defensive end Nick Danner, and defensive backs David Bailey and Racean Wood. Along with Meehan, the Tigers feature running backs Steve Sirios, who averages about 80 yards per game rushing, and Seth Wing. Tight end Frank Chepke and receivers Tyler Jamison and Josh Moore are among Meehan’s favorite targets. Defending Gardiner’s play action is key, Knight said.

“They’ll lull you to sleep with running plays, then all of a sudden (Meehan) pulls the ball out and throws it deep. You have to be on top of your game,” Knight said.

Aidan FitzGerald, now in his second year at quarterback for Waterville, is off to a strong start. FitzGerald has six touchdown passes, and showed a glimpse of the future in that playoff loss at Gardiner last season, when he threw for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Danner and Devin Burgess are Waterville’s top receivers, while Wood, who ran for 110 yards and three touchdowns last week against Oceanside, leads the run game.

“Hopefully we can contain that offense of theirs. I think our defense will be able to do that. Offensively, if we can put some points on the board, we should be able to get out of there with a win,” Burgess said.

Defending the Waterville offense means being ready for anything, Burgess said.

“You’ve got to prepare for all the different things. That means you’ve got to watch their last two games you have on film. You have to scout them, and go back to last year’s film to see what they did against you last year,” Burgess said. “The kids are as adept at watching film as we (the coaches) are. They pick up as much as the coaches do.”

To Knight, this game will come down to getting defensive stops.

“I’m fairly confident that our offense will move the ball against Gardiner,” Knight said. “Where we are defensively is the question. Can we contain Meehan, and can we stop their inside run game? That’s what we’ll find out on Saturday.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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