WINTHROP — It was the elephant in the room before the start of the season: Can two programs come together, co-exist and be successful?

That question was definitively answered Friday night at Maxwell Field.

The Winthrop/Monmouth football team defeated Maranacook 35-14 to finish the regular season with an 8-0 record and secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Class D playoffs.

“We just told them (in the postgame huddle) we’re Campbell Conference champions, and no one can take that from them,” Winthrop coach Joel Stoneton said, drenched from a Gatorade bath given to him by his players. “We’re not satisfied with that, but we can take a moment, breathe a little. No one thought we could do this and we did it. Not only did we make it work, but we had success with it too. You couldn’t pick a better group of kids to do this.”

It was a fact not lost on the players, either.

“I’m so speechless right now,” Winthrop running back Jake Weeks said. “(Coming from Monmouth) with these Winthrop players, everyone thought we’d be fighting, and it was the total opposite. We came together like brothers through it all. Look at us now. We’re 8-0 and going to the playoffs.”

The Ramblers clinched their undefeated regular season the old fashioned way, with a tough running game and an overbearing defense.

Winthrop had its way offensively with the Black Bears (4-4) from its opening drive, marching 80 yards for its first score, capped off by a 13-yard touchdown run by Weeks.

Two drives later, Winthrop needed just two plays before Zach Glazier ran 8 yards into the end zone to give the Ramblers a 13-0 lead.

The Ramblers even had a little luck on their side. Deep in Maranacook territory, quarterback Jared Hanson connected on a 10-yard pass with receiver Mario Meucci. Hit at the 1-yard line, Meucci fumbled the ball, but was able to recover in the end zone for the touchdown. Hanson ran the ball in on the two-point conversion to bring the lead to 21-0.

Weeks put Winthrop up 28-0 with an 11-yard TD run before the half.

Glazier led the Ramblers with 111 rushing yards on 12 carries. Weeks had 70 yards on eight carries. All of their yards came in the first half.

“It felt good to come right out there, get some big runs,” Glazier said. “Just keep pounding it. It’s good to run the ball.”

“A lot of people overlook Weeks because of Glazier,” Stoneton said of his running game. “But it’s really a two-headed monster.”

The Ramblers defense was just as dominant in the first half, holding the Black Bears to 57 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers.

“The kids up front have been really tough and they’re getting better,” Stoneton said. “We put a good game plan, we felt like they executed it all week. The linebackers are really quick. People are going to have a hard time getting around those guys.”

Winthrop played its backups for the entire second half, but still found success. Running back Zack Phinney scored on a 14-yard run to up the lead to 35-0.

While outmanned, the Black Bears continued to fight. Quarterback Kyle Morand found Peter Prescott in the end zone on a play-action pass and was able to connect with him for a 12-yard touchdown.

Jake Gibson added a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to bring the score to 35-14.

“The kids didn’t give up, I was proud of them, they played really hard in the second half,” Maranacook coach Joe Emery said.

Morand, who broke off a 55-yard run just short of a touchdown on the final play of the game, led the Black Bears with 98 rushing yards. He also had 19 passing yards.

Maranacook was plagued by injuries throughout the game. They finished the contest with 18 healthy players.

“Tonight was brutal,” Emery said. “(Winthrop) had 18 seniors and I had 18 players finish the game.”

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