DIXFIELD — Your team is down by one with four minutes left, and there are 67 yards between a thrilling win and crushing defeat.

This is why generations of high school students have — and will continue to — put on the pads.

Matt Ingram scored on a quarterback sneak with 6.9 seconds remaining to lift the Winthrop/Monmouth football team to a 12-7 win over Dirigo on Friday night at Harlow Park. The Ramblers, trailing 7-6 with 4 minutes, 6 seconds remaining, went 67 yards to get the go-ahead score.

“I’ll probably remember this game forever,” Ingram said. “I really think we’re starting to prove ourselves. We’re contenders.

“We played a great game (Friday night) with some power football, we spread the ball around and everyone was doing their assignments.”

After a scoreless first three quarters, Dirigo broke the tie on its opening possession of the fourth on a drive that began on its 30-yard line. A 32-yard rush from Gavin Arsenault on first down seemingly uncorked the Dirigo offense, and four plays later, quarterback Riley Robinson ran it in from 15 yards out to put the Cougars up 7-0 with 8:24 remaining.

“A lot of good defense in the first half and we found something late,” Dirigo coach Jim Hersom said. “The kids adjusted well but Winthrop hung right in there.”

The Ramblers picked up a first down on its ensuing drive behind a pair of rushes from Alec Brown and another from Ingram, but then Winthrop/Monmouth found the play that it had been searching for the entire night.

Ingram threw a pass to the left flat for Bennett Brooks and from there the junior receiver did the rest. Brooks juked to the left, then back to the right and made a defender miss in each instant before turning up the sidelines for a 61-yard gain down to the Dirigo 5-yard line.

“I was just trying to make my way through the defenders,” Brooks said. “Anywhere there was green grass I was trying to get to.”

Two plays later Ingram powered his way into the end zone from a yard out to finally get the Ramblers on the scoreboard with 6:08 to play. Winthrop/Monmouth elected to go for two, but Brown was met at the line of scrimmage by a wall of Cougars to preserve a 7-6 Dirigo lead.

Despite failing to get the lead, the Ramblers still felt momentum had swung onto their side.

“It was a big impact. It gave us all this momentum that we were starting to lose,” said Andrew Pazdziorko, who played a key role on the Ramblers’ winning drive. “Once he caught that it felt like we were off to the races.”

Dirigo managed just 5 yards on its next possession and punted the ball back to the Ramblers with 4:06 left to play.

Winthrop/Monmouth stuck to the ground initially on the drive and picked up a pair of first downs as it marched into Cougar territory.

On second-and-13 from the Dirigo 46-yard line Ingram hit Pazdziorko on a 17-yard completion to get inside the 30, but the junior quarterback’s next three passes sailed incomplete to set up a fourth-and-10 with 34.9 seconds remaining.

Ingram did not disappoint, however, as he was given ample time by his offensive line and found Pazdziorko along the left sideline for another 17-yard gain.

“You just need to take a deep breath, see the field and get things into perspective,” Ingram said. “Just keep in mind that we still had a chance there and execute. That was the key — to believe that we still had a chance.

“We had Bennett running deep to get them off and I had great pass protection. I waited in the pocket, I had Bennett and then hit Andrew wide open.”

After an incompletion, the Cougars got good pressure on the Ramblers’ quarterback on second down and Ingram was forced to scramble to his right. Just before getting hit from behind he floated a pass across his body to the center of the field, where senior Ben Ames leapt into the air to haul in the jump ball just outside the goal line.

Winthrop/Monmouth was forced to use its final timeout to stop the clock with 10.3 seconds to go and on the ensuing play Ingram bulled his way into the end zone behind a strong push from his offensive line.

“We certainly found out what we’re made of,” Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “We knew we had a lot of positive guys, but last year and this year … they hadn’t had that win against a good team. To have a win against a good team and do it the way they did, coming from behind (was great).”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

ecrawley@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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