There’s film to watch, this time of another team. There are opposing running backs and receivers with which to simulate matchups. There’s a gameplan to practice carrying out on the field.

The long wait is over. For Winthrop/Monmouth, the top team in Class D South, it’s finally time to play some football.

For half a month, the Ramblers have been confined to their own practice field, not as punishment but as a reward. Winthrop/Monmouth won all seven of its regular-season games, had a bye in the final week, then got another as the top seed in Class D’s Campbell Conference.

The rest was nice. So was the home field advantage that came with it. But the Ramblers finally have an opponent to prepare for in No. 4 Dirigo, and they like it that way.

“We’re ready to go,” coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “The game can’t come soon enough. We’ve been waiting for three weeks to play, so we’re ready.”

Ready and confident they can regain the form that had them homing in on the top seed since midseason. The Ramblers steamrolled their opponents, scoring an average of 33.6 points per game while holding five of their seven opponents to single digits. It’s a short path from rest to rust, but St. Hilaire likes the chances that he’ll see the same team from September and October come Friday and the first game of November.

“No questions there,” he said. “We’re confident in our abilities, but we’re ramping it up to be more intense, to be more disciplined, to be a smarter football team and minimize mistakes.”

The Ramblers took measures to prevent the atrophy from setting in. Winthrop/Monmouth played Class C’s Madison in a scrimmage Wednesday night, allowing the Ramblers to both get some game action and test themselves against a title contender in a higher tier.

“It was nice. They’re a very talented team,” senior running back Nate Scott said. “It was great to be able to go down there and get some work in against different faces. Hopefully, we’ll get that same feeling Friday night.”

It was a controlled scrimmage, with each team running 10 plays against the other, and St. Hilaire said it was exactly what his team needed to shake itself back into form.

“We looked pretty good in Madison,” he said. “We were concerned with our offensive execution, how the timing was going to be. We executed pretty well, and we got a lot of benefit out of it. We could tell just from that experience that the kids are ready to go, there’s no complacency. The down time didn’t hurt anyone.”

Now it’s time for the real thing. Winthrop/Monmouth needed a last-minute score to take down Dirigo, 14-6, the first time the two teams met, and the Ramblers are counting down the minutes until they can post what they hope is a more convincing victory in the rematch.

“It’s been great to get a chance to heal up and work on what we’ve got to work on,” Scott said. “It’s always good as a football team to have time to heal up any bumps and bruises, get fresh. But we’ve all been itching for a game.”

• • •

The situation facing Cony at the end of its playoff opener with Lawrence was daunting, to say the least. Trailing by a touchdown, the Rams had to go 80 yards in 1:42, in the rain, against a defense looking to nail down its seventh straight win.

Oh yeah. And they hadn’t even been rehearsing how to do it.

“We used to practice the no-huddle almost daily, as part of our conditioning,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “We haven’t done it a lot this year. We’re just really young up front.”

Well, with less than two minutes to go and plenty of field to cover, ready or not, it was no-huddle time. Turns out the Rams were ready, marching down the field before scoring on Taylor Heath’s dramatic fourth-down touchdown pass to Jordan Roddy with 6.3 seconds left and getting the winning 2-point conversion in a 28-27 victory.

“We haven’t been in a game where we’ve had to score late to win it or tie it,” Lippert said. “It’s probably not great coaching. We just didn’t practice it a lot.”

The whole drive wasn’t run no-huddle, but the Rams had to pull it out for what Lippert estimated where the three or four plays after a tackle was made in bounds and a timeout was either unavailable or unwise. In the midst of the hectic setting, Cony executed, as Heath hit Roddy and Chad Bickford with quick passes to get into Lawrence territory and also hit Reed Hopkins to convert a third-and-10 before the final scoring play.

“Some of our veterans, the Chad Bickfords and Jordan Roddys, they were out there running routes, and our O-line just listened for the play call,” Lippert said. “And Taylor orchestrating that was tremendous.

“It was fun to see. In the moment, you’re sort of consumed by calling plays and figuring out what they’re doing defensively. But looking back, watching the film Saturday, it was a pretty special moment.”

• • •

Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette knew the steady rain on Saturday would be a break for his defense in the Raiders’ playoff opener against Traip Academy.

He couldn’t have predicted just how dominant it ended up being, however.

The Raiders swarmed and stymied the Rangers during their 16-8 Class D South quarterfinal victory, holding them to no first downs and only 35 total offensive yards for the game.

“We knew it was going to be a swampy field out there, so we knew the defense had to play well,” Doucette said. “We were happy with that. … We’ve needed to improve each week, and that was a good step for our defense.”

Oak Hill had limited Traip in a 33-13 victory in the final game of the regular season, but not like it did in the rematch. After giving up 110 yards to Evan Porter in the first game, the Raiders held him to only 41 on Saturday and kept Traip’s other backs in negative yardage.

“Each week, we find out a little more about our identity and what we need to work on,” Doucette said. “I think we were doing our jobs, to a man, and carrying out our individual responsibilities.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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