GARDINER — On so many different levels, this was redemption for the Cougars.

Senior quarterback Cole Dorman completed one pass all night, but it was the only pass that mattered — a 14-yard touchdown throw to Sean Testa with just seconds remaining, lifting Mt. Blue to a 14-9 win over Gardiner in a Pine Tree Conference Class B game Friday night at Hoch Field.

The victory was the first of the season for Mt. Blue (1-4), while Gardiner (1-4) suffered its fourth defeat in five games.

“I was definitely going to go to Testa because he’s definitely one of the strongest receivers on the team,” Dorman said. “He comes down with every ball.”

However, Testa didn’t come down with every ball against Gardiner. In fact, late in the fourth quarter the senior was still beating himself up over a catch he didn’t make midway through the second quarter. A promising Cougar drive deep into Gardiner territory ended after two illegal motion penalties and a fourth-and-long throw to Testa that he couldn’t wrestle out of the hands of Tiger defensive back Collin Foye.

The next 46 plays called by Mt. Blue head coach Jim Aylward?

All running plays.

But as the clock wound into the last minute of the final quarter, the Cougars called their final timeout with 16 seconds remaining. Facing a second and 7 from the Gardiner 14-yard line, Mt. Blue went back to the air. Dorman fired to the left corner of the end zone, where Testa made the catch, dragging one foot in bounds for the touchdown with 10.2 seconds showing on the clock.

“I knew the play and knew what I had to run, but I screwed it up to be honest,” Testa said. “I actually went inside instead of outside, and then I was like, ‘Wait a second,’ so I turned around and then went. I was lucky enough to get one foot in.

“It was redemption for me. It made me feel like I was doing my part for the team.”

The drive was kept alive on fourth down two plays earlier — on a run the Gardiner defense had snuffed out — on a Tiger penalty for a defensive substitution that occurred too late.

“I told the kids that was probably one of the toughest (losses) I’ve been a part of, having been around the game for a long time,” Gardiner head coach Joe White said.

“It was a great call by Coach Aylward. We knew they were going to pass it, but there’s not much you can do. When it happens, it’s like it’s in slow motion. You’d love to have that one back.”

“We didn’t want to put ourselves in that position,” Aylward said. “I remember right before the play, I think we were all a little nervous. I looked at Cole and said, ‘Have fun,’ and that was fun. Sean made a great catch, he really did. All the credit to the kids. They fought adversity.”

Gardiner took a 3-0 lead into halftime thanks to sophomore Matt Boynton’s 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter, the first field goal of Boynton’s career. The rest of the first half was dominated by good defensive plays, including sacks from Michaud and his Tiger teammate Mike McArthur.

But after not being able to find an offensive rhythm in the first half, Mt. Blue looked like a different team in the third quarter. A three-and-out on Gardiner’s first possession, which netted a total of just 3 yards after a fumbled handoff and a penalty pushed the Tigers back on successive plays, the Cougars turned their first touch of the ball into a 6-3 lead.

A 12-play drive marched 55 yards down the field and ate up 5:34 on the game clock, capped by Makao Thompson’s 4-yard run.

Thompson wreaked havoc in the second half. After rushing for 60 yards on 12 carries in the first half, the hulking tailback finished his night with 143 yards on the ground on 31 carries. Fullback Caleb Hall played a nice supporting role, too, with 55 yards rushing on 12 carries of his own.

“We’ve struggled all year to finish drives, and we came out in the first half and did the exact same things. We moved the ball up and down the field in the first half but were down 3-0,” Aylward said. “In the second half, we just finished. We talked all week about how we had to finish everything — blocking, tackling, drives and games. These kids work hard. They earned this.”

Gardiner wasn’t quite finished, however. The Tigers retook the lead at 9-6 when Cougar returner Jozef Short tried to field a punt in heavy traffic and fumbled the ball into the arms of Gardiner’s Dominic Burditt. That set up a quick scoring drive that Tiger quarterback Foye used his legs to zig-zag all over the field for a 34-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

All that set the stage for Testa’s game-winning touchdown reception. But Testa wasn’t done — he intercepted Eli Kropp’s Hail Mary attempt at his own 15-yard line on the final play of the game to seal the victory.

“The interceptions and all the plays that we stopped from Gardiner, it meant a lot for us,” Testa said. “It gave us hope that we would do something, that we would finally get a win and be able to say that we’re doing this as a team and we’re getting this boat going.”

OF NOTE: Prior to the game, former longtime Gardiner coach John Wolfgram was honored with the “Whatever It Takes Award” by John Burgess.

“I really appreciate this award,” Wolfgram said. “It’s a great honor to accept this.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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