GARDINER — The line in front of him may be revamped, but Jack Bernatchez can still chew up large chunks of yardage behind it.

Bernatchez rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns to lead Messalonskee to a 30-14 win over Gardiner in a Pine Tree Conference Class B opener Friday at Hoch Field.

Messalonskee graduated three-fifths of its starting offensive line and all of its tight ends, but they didn’t appear to miss a beat against the Tigers, rushing for 422 yards.

“We’ve got some guys filling big holes on offense and tonight the line really stepped it up,” Bernatchez said. “They had a big game.”

“Jack’s a good player, but I’ve got to give some credit to the line,” Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop said. “We had some good holes there, and all of the backs blocked well and we were faking well. I think as long as nobody gets hurt, we’ll continue to get better.”

Colby Dexter added 110 yards and two rushing touchdowns for the Eagles, who jumped out to a 21-0 in the first 11 minutes that allowed them to dictate the game virtually from the start.

“We get the lead like that, you can do some other things and run the ball,” Bishop said.

Offense, defense and special teams all contributed to the quick start.

After forcing Gardiner to punt with a three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, the Eagles marched 92 yards in 11 plays on their first offensive series, which was capped by Dexter’s eight-yard TD run. Devin Pickett added the extra point to make it 7-0.

Gardiner muffed the ensuing kickoff and C.J. Gordon recovered for the Eagles at the Gardiner 23. On first down, Dexter carried it to the 4 and Bernatchez ran it in from there to make it 14-0.

Helped by initial pressure from Caleb Chavarie, David Kinney sacked Gardiner QB Eli Kropp to put the Tigers into a 3rd-and-28 hole. A delay of game pushed them back five yards more, and Bernatchez picked off Kropp’s pass over the middle and returned it 20 yards to Gardiner’s 10.

“We had a good scout on their pass game so I’ve seen that play a couple of times in practice and I was just ready for it,” Bernatchez said.

The Eagles needed just one play to make it 21-0 on Dexter’s 10-yard run.

Messalonskee stopped Gardiner on 4th-and-5 at the Eagles 33, then went 67 yards in five plays capped by Bernatchez’s eight-yard TD run for a 27-0 lead, which it took into halftime.

Bernatchez added his fourth touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, this one from 12 yards out.

Gardiner got on the board with Kropp’s six-yard TD pass over the middle to Kaleb Caron on fourth down. Cody Spencer added a 40-yard TD run for the Tigers with 3:45 to go.

Josh Farrin rushed for 117 yards for Gardiner and had a two-point conversion run.

“We were pretty pleased with the way the kids were able to move the football when we had control of it,” said Joe White, who was making his debut as Gardiner’s head coach. “We went into the locker room at halftime and we didn’t talk about everything we were doing poorly. We said what are we doing well, and one of them was running the football. We came out and continued to do that and built a little confidence.”

Austin Pelletier also had a sack for Messalonskee.

“We’ve got a long ways to go. We did better than last week,” Bishop said. “I told the kids this week’s practice was going to be tougher. We’ve got a tough opponent. And it’s hard. We don’t get a lot of preseason in Maine anymore.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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