BATH — Moments after Gardiner scored to take a 13-7 lead on Morse in the second quarter, everything went dark, as a power outage at the McMann Field Complex delayed the game for 20 minutes.

Once the lights came back on, a Shipbuilder fumble and subsequent 67-yard return by Blaise Tripp turned the tide all the way to the visitors in a 34-7 victory in the high school football opener for both teams.

With both squads scoring on their opening drives, it was the visiting Tigers who used a big defensive play. Austin Baltazar, who carried 25 times for 120 yards and a touchdown, swept left and seemed stopped. He kept fighting for extra yards, when the ball popped out, with Tripp picking it up, and with nothing but an open field in front of him, easily scored for a 20-7 lead.

“Baltazar is a great running back, was fighting for extra yards with the ball swinging out there, and we teach our kids to strip, scoop and score. A huge momentum shift,” said Gardiner coach Joe White.

“I’ve been coaching nine years and I don’t think I ever had a fumble returned for a touchdown,” said Morse coach Jason Darling. “It was one of those fluke plays. Austin will come back and get better at that. We couldn’t control that, and we had a lot of grit and didn’t let it bury us.”

Gardiner (1-0) started slowly as Morse methodically moved down the field behind the running of Baltazar, who broke loose on his sixth straight carry for a 42-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 Shipbuilder (0-1) lead.

The Tigers answered, moving 80 yards on 12 plays, with quarterback Sean Michaud plowing into the end zone from the Morse 1 for a 7-7 deadlock after a quarter.

The Gardiner defense held on downs, with Tripp sacking Morse quarterback Corey Larmon on fourth down to give the Tigers the ball at its own 48-yard line. Again the visitors moved the ball, with Cameron Michaud breaking off-tackle for a 14-yard TD run.

“We came out flat last week in our exhibition, and we wanted to avoid that, but sometimes it takes us getting punched in the face to respond,” White said. “We scored on our first two possessions. We just continued the momentum and it was nice to see them execute what we have practiced.”

Then the lights went out, leaving the teams in the dark.

“We came out with a little bit of trickery to keep it light, but we told them to keep it bubbling and not to lose sight of the momentum,” White said.

Once the lights came back on, Morse moved from its own 14-yard line to the Gardiner 28 as Larmon found Jackson Walker for a 22-yard pass play. On first down, Baltazar lost the ball, and with it any momentum that Morse had.

“A couple mistakes, but we are very young and will be a different team in a couple weeks,” said Darling, whose Shipbuilders visit Hermon this upcoming Friday at 7 p.m. “Gardiner has that experience, plays fast and physical, and even though I don’t think we were shell-shocked with a couple of 14-year olds out there, they found out what varsity football feels like.”

Gardiner put the game away with a solid 70-yard, seven-minute drive to begin the second half, with Cameron Michaud pounding in from the 3-yard line for a 26-7 lead.

The Morse defense stepped up, stopping the Tigers on three runs from inside the 2-yard line to take over on downs early in the fourth quarter. But, an intentional grounding penalty resulted in a safety, and Sean Michaud hooked up wide receiver Matt Boynton for a 17-yard pass play to complete the scoring.

Cameron Michaud ran the ball 21 times for 148 yards and two scores, while Garrett Maheux chipped in 59 yards on six rushes. Sean Michaud was 2-for-3 in the air for 53 yards.

Larmon was 7-for-9 in the first half for 68 yards passing for Morse. Mason Savary hauled in five receptions for 34 yards. William Carrolton had a sack to pace the Morse defense.

Gardiner is slated to host Winslow on Friday.

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