NEWPORT — Saturday’s game was the gut check the Nokomis Regional High School football team needed. The Warriors were down a point to Waterville in the second half, but two consecutive drives ended in Purple Panther territory with nothing to show for it, one on a turnover and the other on downs. With just over six minutes to play and starting a drive at midfield, this was a chance for the Warriors to practice what coach Jake Rogers has preached. Forget the mistakes and move on.

“They definitely stung,” Nokomis quarterback Andrew Haining said of the two stalled drives. “We felt like we could’ve put them away a little earlier, but we missed some opportunities.”

This time though, Nokomis capitalized. The Warriors went 56 yards in seven plays, scoring when Haining connected with Alex Costedio on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 3:41 to play. Nokomis’ defense held, ending Waterville’s last drive with a Chance Graves interception at the Nokomis 18 with 59 seconds left, securing a 26-21 Nokomis win.

Nokomis improved to 2-2, while Waterville (1-3) dropped its third straight.

“We played Winslow tough (in a Week 1 loss), and had a pretty good win at Oceanside. Hermon really punched us in the face, and we really weren’t sure how we’d react. I think today we showed we reacted pretty well,” said Haining, who threw a pair of touchdown passes.

Added Rogers: “Just keep going. We’ve just got to stay on task and execute. Don’t worry about the mistakes and move on, and I felt like they did that today. They didn’t hang on to the mistakes. They let them go, and went out and played the next play.”

The go-ahead touchdown came on a third-and-seven play from the Waterville 9. Haining said the play was designed to look as if the ball was going to Graves, hoping that would free Costedio up in the left flat. It worked perfectly.

“Coming up to the line, I called Chance’s number. I called ’17 seam,’ that way I could get the safety to occupy the seam and come back to Alex. It was kind of the plan, just had to fake it,” Haining said.

The score was tied at 14-14 at the half, and the Warriors wasted no time taking the lead. Nokomis took the opening drive of the third quarter 57 yards in six plays, scoring on a Costedio (98 yards on 21 carries) 2-yard run. The extra point try was wide, but Nokomis had a 20-14 lead.

The Panthers answered with a long drive, scoring on a 2-yard run by Trafton Gilbert. Jack Lloyd’s extra point was good, and Waterville had a 21-20 lead.

“What did the game come down to? A few big plays and a few untimely turnovers,” Waterville coach Matt Gilley said.

Haining threw for 139 yards, with Chance Graves (three catches for 47 yards) and Brock Graves (six catches for 47 yards) his favorite targets.

“You’ve got to have everything covered. A little mental mistake and that allows somebody to get behind (the defense), and you’re in trouble,” Gilley said.

Waterville took the game’s opening drive and scored on a 2-yard Gilbert (13 carries for 62 yards) run for a 7-0 lead. The Warriors answered on their opening drive, needing just five plays. Three plays after Tyler Pelletier ran 58 yards to the Waterville 17, Costedio scored on a 1-yard plunge to tie the game. Nokomis took a 14-7 lead with 1:13 left in the first half when Haining connected with Chance Graves on a 5-yard touchdown pass.

Waterville quarterback Jack Thompson tied the game at 14-14 with 8:45 left in the second quarter on a 1-yard keeper.

Nick Wildhaber led Waterville with 78 yards rushing. Anthony Singh added 62 yards rushing for the Panthers.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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