WINSLOW — A bye week can be a blessing. It can also be a curse.

For the Winslow football team, heading into a bye after an 8-0 regular season could have been an inadvertent momentum killer.

While the Black Raiders showed some early grogginess from their week off, they were able to overcome Belfast 34-18 in an Eastern Class C semifinal Saturday afternoon at Poulin Field. Winslow (9-0) maintains its perfect season while Belfast — the No. 4 seed — finishes 6-4.

“I think the bye week hurt us,” Winslow running back Dylan Hapworth acknowledged. “It’s more of a psychological thing. But still, it’s like taking a week off; it doesn’t feel real.”

Hapworth led the Black Raiders with 186 rushing yards on 24 carries to go along with his four touchdowns.

With the victory, Winslow — the No. 1 seed — will met rival and No. 2 seed Waterville next Saturday for the regional championship. The game is set for 1 p.m. at Poulin Field.

Belfast delivered the first blow Saturday. The Lions marched 75 yards on its first possession to take a 6-0 lead after a 2-yard touchdown run from Steven Davis.

Winslow linebacker Luke Fredette said it took time for the Black Raiders to get rolling after spending a week inside practicing because of bad weather.

“Taking that bye week off, we were inside a lot of that time, too,” Fredette said. “That probably slowed us down a little bit.”

Hapworth returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. Winslow made up for the error seven plays later when Hapworth capped an 80-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Winslow extended the lead to 14-6 in the second quarter when Hapworth rushed in from 4 yards out.

Belfast answered two possessions later, capping a 55-yard drive with another 2-yard scoring run from Davis to cut the lead to 14-12. The Lions’ defense recovered a Hapworth fumble at midfield on the next drive, which could have given Belfast momentum going into halftime. However, Belfast quarterback Drew Nealey fumbled the ball on the very next play. Winslow’s Nate Gagnon recovered, giving the Black Raiders a shot to score with 44 seconds remaining in the first half.

Winslow took advantage. Quarterback Bobby Chenard hit receiver Trenton Bouchard on a fade route for a 52-yard gain to the Belfast 1-yard line. Hapworth scored his third touchdown of the game on the next play, a dive up the middle, to give Winslow a 21-12 lead.

“We just needed to get on a roll,” Hapworth said. “We just had some dumb penalties, stupid mistakes.”

The Black Raiders scored on the opening drive of the second half as Chenard connected with Bouchard on a 7-yard touchdown pass for a 27-12 lead. Belfast continued to show fight, answering on the next drive with an 80-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by Davis, to bring the score to 27-18.

Davis, a 6-foot-2 senior, did the majority of Belfast’s offensive work, rushing for 137 yards on 30 carries.

“That kid is a house,” Fredette said. “He’s a really good player.”

“He’s a great running back,” Belfast head coach Chris Bartlett added. “Any time he touches the ball, he’s electric. To have a kid that can literally score every time he touches the ball is relaxing (as a coach).”

Penalties hurt Belfast in the fourth quarter. Davis broke off a 32-yard run that would have put Belfast at the Winslow 13-yard line. However, Davis was flagged for a 15-yard penalty because he hurdled over Hapworth — who dove at Davis’ legs to make the tackle — during the run. Winslow capitalized, forcing an eventual turnover-on-downs at their own 29-yard line.

The Black Raiders added their final score on the next drive, going 70 yards on 10 plays. Hapworth scored his fourth and final touchdown, a 16-yard run, to seal the game with the 34-18 lead.

Belfast made one last desperate drive down the field, getting to the Winslow 14-yard line, but a Nealey pass was intercepted by Hapworth at the goal line to end the game.

The Lions and Black Raiders were relatively even in offensive yards. Winslow had 342 yards while Belfast had 316 yards.

When teams met during the regular season, Winslow won handily, 62-6.

“The way we played, I was ecstatic,” Bartlett said. “I’m extremely proud and happy with how these guys played. We only had three days of practice this week because of the snowstorm. They played hard, played well and played with a lot of poise…being able to handle the atmosphere, the intensity of this atmosphere of a semifinal game (in Winslow), I was very proud of how the guys handle the pressure.”

Now it’s on to Waterville. The Purple Panthers will be seeking revenge from last year’s regional final — the Black Raiders prevailed 49-18 at Poulin Field.

“We know all the kids over there, it’s going to be a big game,” Fredette said. “We’ve been playing them since midget football, played them earlier in the year. We’re looking for a really big game.”

Dave Dyer — 621-5639

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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