GARDINER — The Cony/Gardiner rivalry has been played 140 times. Few matchups, if any, went as wildly as Friday night’s.

The Tigers and Rams endured one dramatic swing after another, taking them through a tight second half, a wild fourth quarter and then into overtime, where Matthew Boynton’s interception and Collin Foye’s 10-yard run lifted Gardiner to a 13-7 victory at Hoch Field.

The players storming onto the field after the final play and the tears that remained on their faces even after the stands had emptied told the story. It was Gardiner’s first win in the series since 2011, and it felt like an even longer time coming.

“We were thinking back of all we fought through this year,” Foye, overcome with emotion, said after the game. “We did it for Taby (Hembree, who died in a car accident before the first day of school), we did it for the community. We did it for them.”

The rivalry had become one-sided. Cony (5-3) was going for its sixth straight win, and eighth in nine tries. Instead, the boot is back in Gardiner (3-5), presented to players who celebrated like they had just brought home a state championship.

“It’s the Cony-Gardiner game, it’s one of the oldest rivalries in the nation,” Foye said. “We’ve been on a losing streak in this town. We’re so happy to get that boot back.”


“I’m really proud of these guys,” Gardiner coach Joe White said. “Seniors played their hearts out tonight, and I’m so glad for those guys. … I couldn’t be more psyched.”

The path there got bizarre. Cony reached the Gardiner 5-yard line on its first drive of the second half before missing a short field goal try, and Gardiner reached the Cony 29 before turning the ball over on downs with 21 seconds to go in the game.

Somehow, the Rams got a final shot at the victory. Anthony Sousa lobbed a deep pass from his 46 with 11 seconds remaining, and Cony got a break when the ball into traffic was tipped directly back to Reed Hopkins for a 26-yard gain with only one second remaining on the clock. The sequence, with a personal foul tacked on, gave Cony a shot at as strange a last-second win as a team could draw up, but Kyle Douin’s try from 27 yards out sailed just wide of the left upright.

That sent the game to overtime, where teams start with the ball at the 10-yard line, and where Gardiner’s defense, spectacular to that point with four interceptions, made its biggest play of the night. Matthew Boynton stuck to Eli Dutil and made a perfect read on Sousa’s fade to the back left corner, notching his second interception and Gardiner’s fifth to give the Tigers a crack at the walk-off victory.

“I knew it was going to be man-on-man, and I’d been covering him all night,” Boynton said. “I just tried to get under that as best as I could, tried to cover him as tight as I could.”

On a night full of big-moment performances, Boynton’s may have been the hardest to predict.


“Two weeks ago, Matt was playing JV,” White said. “He was feeling down, last year he played a little more varsity than he did this year. But Matty had a pick in the JV game, and I said ‘This is how it starts.’ “

Gardiner had its best chance yet. It needed only one try to convert. Foye found space right and cruised into the end zone as his teammates poured onto the field and swarmed him in celebration.

“I saw it open up, and I can’t thank my linemen enough. They gave it to me,” Foye said. “I came in there hardly touched.”

It had been shaping up to be a game to forget for the senior tailback, who managed only 22 yards on 12 first-half carries before gaining 77 on 15 attempts in the second half and overtime.

“I knew it wasn’t working in the first half, I knew I need to make a change,” Foye said. “I tried to get myself motivated, I tried to see what I could do.”

Cony jumped in front after recovering a botched snap on a Gardiner punt attempt, taking over at the Tigers 13 with 8:11 left in the second quarter. Sousa (28 carries, 135 yards) picked up the 13 yards on five carries, putting the Rams on the board with a 2-yard rush with 5:49 remaining.


“We knew they were good defensively, I thought we moved the ball really well for much of the game,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “Anthony Sousa ran as hard as humanly possible.”

Miscues cost the Rams their advantage. A Gardiner fumble on the ensuing possession seemed to set Cony up for another strike, but Sousa threw the ball against his body while rolling right on third-and-5 from the Gardiner 13, leading to a Blaise Tripp interception.

Gardiner took over at its own 43 and found the end zone seven plays later, with Cole Heaberlin hitting Dimitri Paradis for a 6-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7 with 35 seconds left, two plays after finding him for 32 yards on third-and-2.

Cony had chances to regain control in the second half with one threatening drive after another, but couldn’t finish those drives off. The Rams missed the field goal on their first drive, turned the ball over on downs on the Tigers 28 on the next drive, then saw their third drive end at the 9-yard line when Kolton Brochu stepped in front of a slant meant for Hopkins.

“Good defenses don’t allow you to score in the red zone,” Lippert said. “That’s essentially on me. I know Sousa probably feels bad, but that comes down to me calling better plays in the red zone to put points on the board.”

Gardiner wasn’t without its near-misses either, as Foye appeared to put the Tigers ahead with a 55-yard run to the end zone early in the fourth quarter, only for the run to be called back for a hold.


It was a punch to the gut in the moment. By game’s end, it was just a distant memory.

“At some point, it has to happen, and I’ve been saying it for three years,” White said. “And now they believe it.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.