FARMINGTON — It came down to two red-zone stands, a gutsy coaching call and a disputed catch.

All four of those things went for Mt. Blue and against Messalonskee. As a result, the Cougars held on for a 14-7 victory on Friday night at Competition Field.

Both defensive stands came in the second quarter. Messalonskee led 7-6 and drove from its own 14-yard line to a first and goal at the Mt. Blue 3. On fourth and goal from the 1, Jake Dexter was stuffed on a quarterback sneak.

The Eagles got the ball back at the Mt. Blue 25, but on fourth and one from the 5, the Cougars swarmed Jack Bernatchez (19 carries, 140 yards) for a loss of 1.

Messalonskee still led on Bernatchez’ 56-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Earlier, Christian Whitney intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 25 yards to the Messalonskee 3. J.T. Williams (10 carries, 71 yards) scored from there on the next play.

On Mt. Blue’s last possession of the first half, Williams limped to the sidelines with a knee injury. Williams did not return and was on crutches after the game.


At that point, the Cougars were coming off a lopsided loss to Lawrence last week and had lost their offensive workhorse. They had gained 50 yards on their first three plays of the game — all runs by Williams — but just 37 the rest of the half. They were reeling, so Mt. Blue coach Jim Aylward ordered Anthony Franchetti to do a surprise onside kick to open the second half, and Christian Whitney recovered it for the Cougars at the Messalonskee 45.

“When J.T. came over and we heard that he was out, I just felt like we had to do something,” Aylward said. “It was like someone had deflated us. I just felt like it was going to be one of those plays that if we could pull it off, could change the momentum. At that point, you just try anything.”

Mt. Blue drove to a fourth and seven at the Messalonskee 13. Quarterback Ryan Pratt threw to the end zone, where Nate Pratt-Holt went parallel to the ground for a diving catch. After a delay of about 10 seconds, the officials ruled a touchdown, and Pratt’s two-point conversion run made it 14-7.

“The ball bounced off the ground. He trapped it,” Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop said. “It is what it is. We made mistakes at crucial times, and we shot ourselves in the foot. We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves.”

Asked if he could tell whether he caught it cleanly, Pratt-Holt said, “I mean, it felt good.”

Messalonskee was held to 71 yards in the second half and did not advance past its own 46-yard line after the break. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles stopped Mt. Blue on downs twice — once at the Messalonskee 15 on a nice tackle by Bernatchez, and again at the 27 after Mt. Blue’s Cody Gould blocked a punt.


But every time the Eagles started to get going in the fourth quarter, something seemed to go wrong. Dexter ran for nice yardage, but it was called back by a holding penalty. Later in the drive, Dexter twice danced away from Messalonskee lineman McKinley Goozey, but his perfect third-down pass went off the receiver’s chest.

The next time Messalonskee got the ball, Bernatchez ran for about 15 yards, but that was nullified by a penalty. On the next play, Dexter rolled left and completed a pass for first-down yardage, but the officials ruled Dexter had passed the line of scrimmage when he threw the pass.

“Every time we had a big play, we made a mistake,” Bishop said. “When you have penalties at big, crucial times, you can’t win football games.”

On the other side, well, Mt. Blue may have escaped in a sense, but the Cougars also made plenty of big plays.

“We lost J.T. in the first half,” Aylward said. “We didn’t play well last week. We started questioning ourselves. I know we have a meat grinder schedule, but we’re going to be happy about this one tonight. This was a huge win for us.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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