READFIELD — Football teams stress success in three phases of the game to win.

Offense. Defense. Special teams.

Maranacook was reminded of that lesson Friday night in a Western D game against Dirigo.

The Cougars were able to force six turnovers — including five interceptions — and added a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown by sophomore Gavin Arsenault to hang on to a 13-8 win.

“Turnovers and special teams (hurt),” Maranacook head coach Joe Emery said. “I know we had one fumble and (five) picks. So that’s (six) possessions. Your offense isn’t going to score if you don’t have the ball, right?”

Down 13-0 at halftime, Maranacook (0-1) was able to recover an onside kick to begin the half, and drove 50 yards on four plays, cutting the lead in half with a 6-yard touchdown run by fullback Simon Davis and a two-point conversion run by Logan Emery.

But Dirigo (1-0) recovered defensively, and continued to put pressure on Black Bears quarterback Kyle Morand. With constant stunts and blitzes, Morand was never comfortable and threw three interceptions in the first half, two in the second. Two of those interceptions were made in the end zone by Cougars safety Riley Robinson.

“Picks are huge,” Dirigo head coach Dave Crutchfield said. “When you make five picks and you don’t win the game, you’re in trouble. And we almost didn’t win that game.”

Both of Dirigo’s touchdowns in the first half came on special teams. In the first quarter, Cougar defensive back Joe Casey broke through the line and blocked a punt by Maranacook’s Jake Gibson deep in Black Bears territory. The ball bounced into the endzone, where Dirigo’s Tyler Frost diving on it to secure the score for the Cougars.

The final scoring play for the Cougars came late in the second quarter on Arsenault’s highlight-reel return. Receiving the ball on his own 45-yard line, Arsenault first headed right toward the sideline, before cutting back to his left the entire width of the field, and cut toward the endzone for another 50 yards for the score.

“I just saw all the blockers headed right and I just turned around and ran left,” Arsenault said. “I was thinking endzone the whole time.”

Maranacook had more success offensively, gaining 182 total yards to Dirigo’s 147. Black Bears running back Christopher Robinson led the ground game with 70 yards on 13 carries.

“We played a good second half, but that was a good Dirigo team,” Emery said. “They played with a lot of heart and they played better than we did tonight.”

“(Maranacook) is a well coached team,” Crutchfield said. “They’re big, they’re athletic. They must hit the gym, because they’re moving my guys around.”

The Cougars were led by running back Heath Hersom, who had 46 yards rushing on 13 carries.

Dave Dyer — 621-5639

[email protected]

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