GARDINER — Sometimes old habits are hard to break.

For 22 minutes, the Gardiner Area High School football team looked nothing like the team that went 0-8 a season ago, yet in a mere 40 seconds all the Tigers’ hard work was undone Friday night at Hoch Field.

Lawrence scored 10 points in a 40-second span late in the second quarter to take an 11-point lead at the break, and the Tigers never recovered in a 46-18 Bulldogs victory.

“We moved the ball pretty well (in preseason) at Messalonskee a couple times and we did the same thing tonight,” Gardiner coach Matt Burgess said. “Then we started to play a little catch up and we were throwing the ball around a little bit and it got picked.

“We made a couple nice plays, a couple not great plays and they capitalized on them really well.”

While the contest ultimately finished decidedly in Lawrence’s favor, it was Gardiner that struck first Friday after holding the Bulldogs to a three-and-out to start the game.

Sophomore quarterback Eli Kropp and senior tight end Jake Truman then got Gardiner on the board, connecting on a 21-yard touchdown on fourth-and-19 after hooking up on a 27-yard completion earlier in the drive.

Senior Cody Martin answered with a one-yard touchdown plunge to cap off an 11-play, 48-yard drive to put Lawrence up 7-6, but the Tigers remained competitive throughout the remainder of the second half — that is, until the final two minutes.

Senior Chad Martin drilled a booming 43-yard field goal that would have been good from at least 50 with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining, and 30 seconds later sophomore Seth Powers intercepted Kropp to give Lawrence the ball back.

“He’s definitely a weapon for us,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said of his kicker. “He has been since his freshman year.

“… He’s continued to work at it and he’s got that kind of range.”

After a false start penalty, Cody Martin found Dustin Simpson-Bragg along the sidelines on a 36-yard pass to give the Bulldogs a 17-6 lead at the break.

“That’s certainly a momentum changer for them,” Burgess said. “It certainly gives them a bit of energy and it probably zapped some of our energy.”

Lawrence did not skip a beat out of intermission, as a Kyle Robinson interception set up the first of two third-quarter touchdown runs from sophomore Mitchell Cushing.

“We really challenged the guys to have a good effort,” Hersom said. “We had a good week of preparation and our athletes made some good plays in the second half.”

Derek Raven and Cody Martin added interception returns for touchdowns of 45 and 36 yards, respectively, before a 34-yard rushing score by senior Tyler Caron with 7:22 to play in the fourth quarter halted a streak of 46 unanswered points by Lawrence. Gardiner’s Treavon Horton added a 3-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth to round out the game’s scoring.

As far as individual statistics go, Cushing finished with 115 yards on 18 carries to go with the two touchdowns, while Walker Thomas popped a couple of solid runs to rack up 58 yards on five carries.

Truman led the Gardiner offense with 81 yards on four catches, while Horton ended with 61 yards rushing.

Evan Crawley—621-5640

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Twitter: @Evan_Crawley