WATERVILLE — Three and even four wide receiver formations. Trips right, then trips left. Empty backfield sets that somewhat resembled a 21st century spread offense.

The Gardiner football team showed them all Saturday against Waterville. But on a sunny late summer day the Tigers won their 10th straight game over Waterville — this one 21-18 at Drummond Field — because it could do one thing.

“Run up the middle,” Gardiner senior fullback/linebacker Seth Wing said. “We still can run the ball.”

Oh, Gardiner (3-0) most certainly can.

The Tigers raced out to a 21-6 lead late in the third quarter but then needed to hold off the Purple Panthers (2-1) to grab the important Pine Tree Conference Class B victory.

“Did we make a statement? I think so,” Gardiner coach Matt Burgess said. “Our varsity is as good as they should be. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the playoffs and work like heck to beat the guys going up to them.”

Steve Sirois rushed for a game-high 126 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. None of those yards came easy and the Tigers needed every one of them. Sirois rushed for three pivotal first downs in the final five minutes of the game to run down the Panthers and the clock.

“That was really key,” Sirois said. “We wanted to kill the clock on them. This is a really huge win. This was our first big test. We wanted to come out and smack them and show that we can still play football.”

Wing rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown on five carries. He also caught a shovel pass from Dennis Meehan on a broken play and turned it into a 37-yard touchdown reception that gave the Tigers a 21-6 lead late in the third quarter.

“We just never gave up,” Wing said.

Meehan completed nine of 17 passes for 147 yards and the touchdown.

Waterville, which missed three extra points, trailed 7-6 at the half and then fell further behind in the third thanks to a Sirois 1-yard touchdown plunge and the Wing reception for a score.

However, Nick Danner caught a tipped ball thrown by Aidan Fitzgerald and raced 65 yards for a touchdown with 4:03 left in the third.

Racean Wood would make things interesting when he rushed for a 27-yard touchdown with 5:14 left in the fourth.

Wood enjoyed a big day, rushing for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Fitzgerald completed three of eight passes for 80 yards. He also threw one interception.

However, the Panthers never touched the ball again after the Wood touchdown.

“It was a valiant comeback attempt but we just ran out of time,” Waterville coach Frank Knight said. “They just ran it right at our defense. We had opportunities but we just couldn’t capitalize. But credit Gardiner. (It) went on the road on a Saturday and put forth a good effort, so the streak goes on.”

Wood gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead when he rushed for an 11-yard touchdown with 2:58 left in the second quarter.

The Tigers answered in the closing minutes of the half, thanks to a few big throws from Meehan.

The senior connected with Frank Chepke on a 25-yard pass and then found Josh Moore for a 36-yard strike at the Waterville goal line.

Sirois then finished off the drive with 44 seconds left.

“We were able to spread the ball out,” Burgess said. “But we can still run it. It’s what we strive to do, and we did that.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

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