SOUTH PARIS — Waiting for pregame introductions, the Messalonskee High School football team gathered in the end zone, ready to take the field as a team. The Eagles tried to keep everything as normal as possible, but there was nothing normal about what the team had been through over the past 36 hours.

The game itself, that was normal. For the Eagles, that was a haven from the craziness that threatened to overtake their team. On the field, Messalonskee focused on football, and left Oxford Hills with a convincing and cathartic 41-0 win.

“Unfortunately, some things happened. But you noticed, everyone still came out here and worked hard, because that’s what we’re all about at Messalonskee,” said co-captain Jake Stinson, who scored a pair of touchdowns and led a defense that held the Vikings to one first down and 18 total yards.

Messalonskee head coach Wes Littlefield resigned on Thursday afternoon, after being suspended with pay while the school began an investigation into an incident which occurred at Wednesday’s practice.

On Friday morning, Littlefield described it as “a little incident with a kid that was blown out of proportion.”

No interim head coach was named, so on the bus ride from Oakland to South Paris, assistant coaches Rob Rodrigue and Chapin LaBelle decided to split duties. Rodrigue would coach the offense, while LaBelle would coach the defense during the game.

“We talked about putting the kids in the best position to be successful tonight. Coach Chapin has been with our defensive guys all year long. I do the offense, and we just felt that was the best fit for our team,” Rodrigue said.

Added LaBelle: “We haven’t really had any time to think about it. We’re just taking it minute by minute.”

Before the Eagles left Oakland, the captains held a team meeting, and their message was simple.

“Play as team. We’re all a team. Nothing really changed. We still have to stick together,” Stinson said. “We really showed we can still play together as a team.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Messalonskee (4-0) scored on the first play of the second quarter. On fourth down and 14 from the Viking 26 yard line, Jake Dexter outjumped a pair of defenders in the end zone to catch a Josh Woodard pass. Devin Warren kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

With 7:31 left in the first half, Corey McKenzie (15 carries for 160 yards, all in the first half) ran 77 yards for a touchdown one play after the Eagles recovered an Oxford Hills (1-3) fumble. Stinson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Woodard with 3:36 left in the first half to give the Eagles a 21-0 lead.

Dean Northup (seven carries for 75 yards) scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter, and Messalonskee added touchdown runs by Stinson and Robert Schlosser in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.

Other than preparing for the next game, neither LaBelle nor Rodrigue was sure what will happen next, as far as naming an interim head coach.

“We’ll figure it out a little more (Saturday), I guess. Maybe we’ll know a little more. We’ll try and figure it out, and put the boys in a good position,” Rodrigue said.

After the game, the Eagles celebrated the win the way they always do, by singing the school song, helmets raised to the sky. The players have turned the page, Stinson said. Despite the turmoil, the ultimate goal of a playoff run hasn’t changed, and Friday’s win was just another step.

“Four and O, baby,” Stinson said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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