PORTLAND — The Gold Ball in Class C football is staying put this season.

Winslow High School led for all but the first 53 seconds Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium to defend its state title in a 24-10 victory over Yarmouth. The Black Raiders led 17-10 at halftime and forced four turnovers — including a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown by Trenton Bouchard — in the second half to hold on for the victory.

“It’s obviously a great feeling (being) back-to-back state champs,” said linebacker Alec Clark, who started his fourth state championship game Friday. “The defense really stepped it up in the second half. We had our backs against the wall two times within the 30 and the defense really stepped it up.”

Winslow became the first team to defend a Class C state title since Yarmouth in 2010-11.

The Raiders jumped ahead 7-0 just 54 seconds into the game on a 3-yard touchdown plunge from Jake Trask, which was set up by a 63-yard rush on a read-option play from the senior quarterback one play prior.

“We really work on faking a lot and Yarmouth was really keying on Kenny (Rickard), our fullback,” said Trask, who rushed for 91 yards on 11 carries and added a pair of interceptions. “The line just made a huge hole and faking was really good (Saturday).

“…(The first touchdown) was really important to get us going. The line started settling in a little bit and it really cooled the nerves down.”

Yarmouth made it 7-3 on a 33-yard field goal from Andrew Beatty with 4:59 to play in the opening quarter but the Black Raiders promptly responded. Rickard plowed into the end zone with 8.1 seconds remaining in the first to cap off a 10-play, 64-yard drive to make it 14-3.

Yarmouth answered with 8:17 to play in the second quarter when John Thoma found Remi LeBlanc for a 51-yard touchdown, but Winslow tacked on a Ryan Gagnon 37-yard field goal as time expired to push its lead to 17-10 at the half.

While the Clippers trailed at the break, they did have some success through the air and looked to Thoma to pace the offense in the second half — particularly with starting running back Cody Cook out for the game due to injury.

“Old Town kind of exposed their pass defense as a little bit suspect so we kind of wanted to take advantage of that,” Yarmouth coach Jason Veilleux said. “We look to try to run first to set up the pass but without Cody Cook — he’s been our leading rusher, he gives us that dual look of run and pass — we tried to run but it just wasn’t there.”

A couple completions from Thoma to start the second half set Yarmouth up in the red zone, but Clippers were forced to make a decision facing fourth and 2 at the 5-yard line. Yarmouth elected to run a wildcat formation with Jack Snyder at quarterback but the play was stopped for a 2-yard loss to force a turnover on downs.

Winslow had just 73 of its 327 yards in the second half but their lead was never really threatened thanks to their stout defense.

“The short passes were there obviously,” Bouchard said, “but as long as you don’t let them go deep then there’s not much there.”

Bouchard’s big play came on third and 10 with Yarmouth backed up to its own 22-yard line as the senior stepped in front of a pass toward the right sideline and raced toward the end zone, barreling through a Yarmouth defender and over the goal line.

Yarmouth’s final four possessions ended with a punt, turnover on downs at the Winslow 14-yard line and a pair of interceptions, respectively, to seal the Winslow victory.

Nate St. Amand paced the Winslow offense with 25 carries for 116 yards. Thoma completed 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards, with Snyder and LeBlanc accounting for 84 and 82 of those receiving yards, respectively.

“We were really relaxed going into this game — really prepared — but we were really relaxed,” Trask said. “It felt like we had been here before and we knew we had business to finish.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Evan_Crawley