GARDINER — Taylor Heath and the Cony High School football team’s offense couldn’t have looked any better, in conditions that couldn’t have been any worse.

Faced with a steady downpour and a waterlogged field, the Rams’ aerial attack was razor sharp as Heath completed 21 of 33 passes for 361 yards in a season-saving 27-18 win over nemesis Gardiner at Hoch Field in the 139th edition of one of Maine’s longest rivalry.

The victory — Cony’s fifth straight over Gardiner (2-6) and seventh in the last eight games — gives the Rams (3-5) a 72-57-10 advantage in the series. More importantly, however, it gives them the sixth and final playoff spot in the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs.

“Our kids battled. That’s a good football team, they played really hard tonight,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “We just happened to catch a few breaks and come away with the win.”

Heath threw for three touchdowns, the last a picture-perfect strike to Jordan Roddy (seven catches, 172 yards, two receiving touchdowns) late in the third that gave Cony the final nine-point lead and some valuable breathing room.

“I’ve got to give credit to the guys on the sideline. They kept the ball dry all game, we had six different balls to use,” said Heath, the game’s MVP. “That was huge. I can barely throw a wet ball as it is.”

He showed he can throw in wet weather, however. After Cony got out to a 21-6 lead, Gardiner stayed close, scoring on the last drive of the first half and the first drive of the second to cut the advantage to 21-18. Collin Foye (22 carries, 157 yards) bounced to the left side for a 22-yard touchdown, putting the Tigers within a field goal with 10:16 left in the third.

Cony held the Tigers on their next two drives, and Heath quickly repaid his defense. On second-and-9 from his own 27, the senior lobbed a perfect pass over defenders to Roddy in stride, and the wideout was gone for the 73-yard score with 3:45 left in the third.

“He’s probably one of the best wide receivers in the state,” Heath said. “It’s huge. He’s my go-to. If I’m under pressure, I’m looking to him almost every time. He makes me look good.”

The Tigers held the Rams off the board the rest of the way, but struggled more and more to move the ball as the conditions got worse and worse. Gardiner entered the game needing a win to make the playoffs, but instead saw its season end with the defeat.

“I really wanted these seniors to be able to play another week,” coach Joe White said. “They came in, were ready to go, gave it everything they had and left nothing out here. They were a couple of big plays away from not having to turn in their gear.”

That was clear from the start of the game, when Gardiner stunned Cony by cashing in on its first drive. Foye ran seven times for 36 yards, setting up quarterback Eli Kropp’s run in from 5 yards out to make it 6-0 Gardiner with 6:08 left in the first.

Undaunted, Heath marched the Rams 66 yards for the score on the next drive, connecting on 5 of 6 passes before hitting Chad Bickford (four catches, 74 yards) up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds left in the first. The next series, Heath completed three of four passes to set up Roddy’s 8-yard touchdown run with 9:40 to play in the half.

The Rams made the Tigers pay for a turnover on downs on the ensuing drive, as Heath tossed a 19-yard pass to Roddy on a post pattern to make it 21-6 with 5:01 to go.

That left enough time for one final Gardiner series, and the Tigers seized the chance. Foye, who had 110 yards on 16 carries in the half alone, evaded Cony tacklers for a 27-yard run to the Cony 34, then found the end zone eight plays later from 3 yards out to trim the gap to 21-12 with only nine seconds remaining.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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