Gardiner’s Nate Malinowski (20) outruns Leavitt’s Nolan Cabral during a Class C South semifinal game last season in Turner. Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

It was a gamble. And Joe White knew it.

But the Gardiner football coach also knew it was one worth taking.

“It’s one of those things where, if you win it and you score on that, no sweat,” he said. “But if you lose it on that, you’re probably up later Friday night than you anticipated.”

The play was the cap to the Tigers’ dramatic 35-30 victory over Winslow on Friday night. A 4th-and-22 conversion with Gardiner trailing 30-28 put the ball at the Winslow 3 with 11.3 seconds to play, and after a false start penalty moved the ball to the 8, White called a bootleg run for quarterback Sean Michaud, one that he was able to take into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with only 3.8 seconds to go.

It was a risky call, and it brought up questions. Why choose a play with no timeouts that, were it to fall short of the end zone, would have run out the clock? Why not take the short field goal with a two-point deficit? Or try a pass, something that could fail and still leave the possibility for another play?

White said he considered all of those options. And needing to make a decision, he went with his gut.

“You get in trouble when you start to second-guess yourself,” he said.

White pondered the field goal, which would have called for Matt Boynton to kick essentially another extra point after hitting all four of his tries during the game. But even with the clock stopped after Michaud’s spike, White said he didn’t want to swap the offense out for the special teams unit without the timeout to properly set up.

It’s a routine play in the NFL. In high school, however, it’s less of a sure thing.

“A field goal on the fly is as reckless in some respects as just sticking with the run play that you called,” he said. “We’ve got some guys that run out on the field goal unit that aren’t on that starting offensive group. You’ve got to be careful trying to throw something like that together if it’s not already assembled.”

The second option was a pass, either a slant or fade that would have taken a sack out of the equation and needed only a few seconds to develop. But Michaud hadn’t completed a pass in the red zone all night, and White saw warning flags with that choice as well.

“Our plays that were successful in the game from a passing standpoint were long, we had a longer field to play with,” he said. “Matt (Boynton’s) speed is more relevant there, versus trying to squeeze in a short route like a slant pass or something to a back out of the backfield.”

With a slew of risky options available, White kept the ball in the hands of one of his best athletes and went with the bootleg, which Michaud had run six times for 80 yards to that point.

Photo submitted by Anna Chadwick Gardiner’s Sean Michaud, center, breaks through for the game-winning touchdown against Winslow on Friday in Gardiner.

“We had what we wanted and we just went with it,” White said. “At that point, running the ball was probably the best option, and I would have trusted any one of those guys in the backfield to do it.”

It ended up being the right call, just as White trusted it would be.

“Sean is really competitive, and he knows exactly what he has to do,” he said. “He’s going to will his way in.”

• • •

When Dakota Andow lost the battle for Cony’s starting quarterback job, coach B.L. Lippert made sure to stress a point to the junior.

“I told him, I’m acutely aware of what it’s like. Two of my four years in college, I was in a quarterback battle,” he said. “It’s not easy. You think you’re going to win, you think you’ve done some stuff to win the job, and all of a sudden they say ‘Oh, we’re going the other direction.’ It’s frustrating.

“We told him, when he was going to be the No. 2, he needed to be ready.”

Andow saw why Friday night when an ankle injury sidelined starter Riley Geyer, and he responded the way his coach had directed. Andow led Cony back from a 13-0 deficit vs. Biddeford, going 19-of-31 for 239 yards and a touchdown as the Rams took a 14-13 victory on the road.

“That speaks to his preparation,” said Lippert, who didn’t name a starter for Friday’s game against Skowhegan. “It’s a real credit to his preparation and his love for his teammates that he was able to do that.”

Andow said he was ready from the moment he got the call to go in.

“(I) just (had to) keep focused,” he said. “Coach just told me to keep my head in it, it could be my time soon, and not to give up on the season. Just to get ready in case I have to go in.”

Andow said he wasn’t fazed by losing the job, nor was he intimidated by the prospect of erasing a 13-0 gap.

He did, however, say that leading the team all the way back will help him going forward.

“It just gives me confidence,” he said, “to know the team has my back in case I need them.”

• • •

Even before they teamed up on the play of the game, Evan Burnell and Jevin Smith had done their part to lift Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale to its first win. And then some.

Burnell and Smith saved the game for the Ramblers in the closing seconds, breaking through the line and stuffing Oak Hill quarterback Gavin Rawstron as he attempted to run in a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game at 14 with 24.9 seconds left.

Instead, it was a 14-12 victory, and coach Dave St. Hilaire said the defensive ends anchored the strong effort all night.

“Jevin and Evan really set the tone, because they were crashing in, and at first we weren’t having linebackers to fill up,” he said. “Once we get those guys to fill up, we started to make things happen defensively.”

St. Hilaire said he was pleased with the entire defense, which held Oak Hill to only 139 total yards offense.

“We just weren’t sure defensively if we were ready,” he said. “We get better as the year goes along, but we haven’t spent a lot of time on … our bear defense that we put in this week for that, but the kids executed it very well.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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