WATERVILLE — No love? Not this time.

The Waterville football team won the proverbial battle in the trenches Saturday afternoon, paving the way for some gaudy offensive statistics and a one-sided 49-26 win over Messalonskee in a cross-class game at Drummond Field. Senior quarterback Jack Thompson rushed for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns while throwing for another score, and Nick Wildhaber ran for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Purple Panthers (3-3) piled up 429 yards of total offense in their second straight victory.

But there was no mistaking the fact that Waterville simply outperformed an undersized Messalonskee team (0-6) along the offensive and defensive lines, making life much easier for Thompson, Wildhaber, et al.

“I think the difference is playing well up front,” Waterville head coach Matt Gilley said. “Jack doesn’t have a guy in his face immediately, there are seams that our running backs are seeing and they’re hitting. People talk about linemen and they don’t get any credit or what not, but I’m telling you — if you don’t have an offensive and defensive line, you’ve got nothing. Kudos to those guys up front.”

Junior fullback Trafton Gilbert, for one, was more than happy to do the dirty work that goes along with one of the more thankless positions on the field.

“I think it’s very important,” said Gilbert, who pounded out a hard-earned 67 yards and a touchdown on the ground, along with a first-quarter TD reception. “Fullback’s kind of a forgotten position nowadays, so I really appreciated it. I’ve been playing it since I was a little kid.”

Waterville was efficient from the outset.

Jack Lloyd got Waterville off to a great start, recovering a fumble on Messalonskee’s first possession and then capping the ensuing Panther drive with a 32-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. The Eagles then went three-and-out and shanked a punt, leaving Wildhaber just one play to scamper 25 yards for a 10-0 Waterville lead less than eight minutes in.

Another three-and-out from the Eagles followed, and Waterville turned that into a methodical six-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Thompson’s 10-yard scoring run.

“That was the best we’ve ever come come out in any sport in my entire career in high school,” Lloyd, a senior, said. “We had the energy, and we played hard.”

Even when Messalonskee started to find some rhythm out of their Wing-T offense, opening the second quarter with a long march to the Waterville 2, the Panthers had an answer. Deklan Thurston’s fourth-and-goal pass was tipped in the end zone and caught by Thompson, and once again Waterville was off.

Thirteen plays, 80 yards and 5:13 off the clock — featuring several Gilbert runs — ended when Thompson found Gilbert from 13 yards out in the final minute of the half, sending Waterville into the break with a 23-0 lead.

“It was a great team win,” Gilbert said. “Coach Gilley said all week, we really want to come out and set the tone right from the kickoff.”

Any hope of a Messalonskee comeback was dashed on the first play of the third quarter, when Wildhaber ripped off a 63-yard touchdown run. It’s not that he wasn’t touched — a facemask penalty to the Eagles was declined on the play.

“The last three weeks, after (losing to Winslow in Week 3), we really sat together as a team and had to look ourselves in the mirror and ask, ‘What do we want this season to look like?’ We had to make a decision,” Gilley said. “We as a coaching staff have been extremely impressed with what the guys have decided to do. It’s the effort level, and it’s the attitude that they bring.”

Messalonskee scored three times in the final period after falling behind 43-6, including a pair of touchdown runs from junior Josh Goff (17 carries, 125 yards rushing). That offset a first half in which the Eagles mustered just 65 yards of total offense.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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