WATERVILLE — Battling youth and injuries, the Waterville football team showed improvement in its 40-8 Big Ten Conference win over Hermon.

Behind a makeshift offensive line, the Purple Panthers gained 298 yards — 222 of which came in the running game. Running back Demetrius Ramirez led the way for Waterville, rushing for 127 yards on 13 carries, notching three touchdowns.

The win was a welcome sight for Waterville (1-1), which suffered a 45-13 loss last week in the season opener to Old Town.

“We have a big, young team,” Ramirez said. “We’re still trying to figure things out. Every week we’re going to get better and better because guys are just trying to figure it out. We have the horses, we just have to get the right idea of working hard.”

“We needed that (win),” Waterville coach Matt Gilley said. “Some early-season injuries, we’ve been asking some young guys to step up. They’ve been learning quickly, which is what we’ve been asking them to do.”

The run game was led by an offensive line comprised of Justin Kornsey, Carlos Esmurria, John Evans and Brandon Choate. The group had no trouble opening holes for both Ramirez — who broke out a 46-yard touchdown run to start the second half — and fellow running back Devon Begin, who ran for 54 yards and a touchdown.

“We switched Justin Kornsey to tackle and John Evans to center and I think that had a lot to do with (success in the run game),” Gilley said. “We asked Carlos Esmurria — who’s never really played a varsity down — to fill some holes and he did an amazing job at right tackle.”

The defense was just as effective. Waterville allowed just 12 offensive yards to the Hawks (0-2) in the first half. The Purple Panthers also won the turnover battle by a 5-0 margin, including interceptions by Cody Pellerin and Kody Vallee.

“That’s how we played traditionally,” Gilley said. “We knew there was room for improvement on the physicality side on defense….Our linebacker play was so much improved. That was a problem we’ve been having the first two weeks.”

Waterville marched 63 yards on its first possession, capped off by a 5-yard Ramirez touchdown run to give the Purple Panthers a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Waterville scored on its next drive, capping a 50-yard drive with a 9-yard scoring run by Ramirez for the 14-0 lead.

The Purple Panthers kept the momentum going in the second quarter with touchdown runs of 3 yards and 6 yards, respectively, by Begin and Theo Heaven to give Waterville a 27-0 lead going into halftime.

Three plays into the second half, Ramirez burst up the middle of the defense for his 46-yard touchdown run to give the Purple Panthers the 33-0 lead.

“The line was great, everything I got was from the line,” Ramirez said. “The line was working hard and making big holes.”

Though outmanned, Hermon fought hard in the second half. The Hawks were able to cap a 74-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Austin Morse to cut the lead to 33-8.

Pellerin, who led the second team offense at quarterback, scored on a 1-yard sneak on the following drive for the final 40-8 score.

Dave Dyer — 621-5639

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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