Even before Nate Malinowski had run for any of his 381 yards Friday night, Sean Michaud provided a jolt for the struggling Gardiner football team.

Michaud hauled in a 94-yard touchdown catch on the second play from scrimmage, putting Gardiner up 7-0 over Morse in an eventual 26-12 victory.

It was a welcome back for Michaud, and a welcome sign for the Tigers. Michaud began the season as the team’s quarterback, guiding Gardiner to 69 points in its first two games, but suffered a broken wrist in a Week 2 win over Winslow and missed the team’s next six games. The Tigers averaged 11.8 points over those games, and were blanked in their last two.

Getting Michaud — a quick runner and good athlete — back gave Gardiner another weapon, and the junior said he was glad to give his team a lift.

“The last couple of weeks, we’ve been struggling a little bit,” said. “We can’t struggle anymore. We need to win. Second play of the game, we score a (94)-yard touchdown, that really lifted everyone’s spirits.”

The play came on 2nd-and-10, and had Michaud, playing running back with a thick cast on his right arm, ran a wheel route down the left sideline. Quarterback Noah Reed hit him in stride, and though Michaud bobbled it momentarily as it hit off his cast, he corralled it and raced the rest of the way for the score.

Michaud said the plan was always to run that play at that moment.

“We practiced it in walkthrough, and (coach Joe White) told us that this was going to be the second play that we were going to run,” he said. “And we just executed it.”

“Getting Sean back in the mix, he’s another weapon that the other team has to prepare for, and we got that back tonight,” White said. “He had a big ol’ smile on his face at the end of this one, because it felt great for him to be back.”

• • •

Waterville coach Matt Gilley was in a reflective mood Saturday afternoon. His team’s season had just come to an end with a loss to Winslow in the C North quarterfinals, but Gilley knew there were plenty of positives to take from the fall.

“This senior class, right from the get-go when they came in as freshmen, we were looking to change the culture a little bit,” he said. “We made the decision early in their careers to sort of hand the reins over to a lot of them. We’ve had the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows over the course of their four years, but it all sort of came together today. The improvement that you saw was led by our senior class.”

That improvement included bouncing back from an 0-8 season in 2016 to go first 3-6 in 2017 and 4-5 this season, making the playoffs both years. It also included rebounding from a 54-13 loss to Winslow in September to battle them to a 46-28 final in the rematch Saturday, and Gilley said that was also the work of the seniors imploring their teammates.

“The captains and leaders in the locker room got their players on board,” he said. “We rallied together, and we put up a hell of a fight for four quarters.”

• • •

Saturday afternoon was a bad time for football. Unless you were an Oak Hill Raider.

In driving rain and on a mud bowl of a field, the Raiders, a seventh seed in the Class D South playoffs, pulled the weekend’s biggest shocker, upsetting No. 2 Lisbon 6-0 in overtime.

It was a drastic turn from just last week, when Lisbon held off Oak Hill 47-27, and coach Stacen Doucette said the elements provided the sort of leveler that a lower seed is always hoping for.

“The field conditions made it very difficult. It was probably an equalizer in a lot of ways,” he said. “It was very, very difficult for both teams to get traction. To go lateral was basically impossible. To throw the ball, basically impossible. It just came down to who made the first big mistake in the game.”

With the field a mess, Lisbon’s advantage with quarterback Lucas Francis and running back Isaiah Thompson — who ran for 168 yards in the first game — was more or less negated, and Oak Hill found itself in a game where any play could make the difference. The Raiders didn’t do much on offense, but they made the play they needed, getting a 10-yard touchdown run from Gavin Rawstron in overtime.

“The formation that we scored the touchdown on, we don’t even have,” Doucette said. “We kind of drew it up in the mud, just to try to find an advantage.”

A penalty negated a Lisbon touchdown on the Greyhounds’ turn, and led to a game-clinching turnover-on-downs, one that sealed a win Doucette said his players would remember.

“This is part of your high school experience,” he said. “A win in a bad-weather game is really a memorable win. Things happen that don’t normally happen.”

• • •

Cony’s played its last game at Alumni Field this year, and coach B.L. Lippert said some of the Rams weren’t ready to say goodbye.

Poor field conditions have forced the Rams to Lewiston to “host” No. 3 Brunswick, and while Cony would be in line to host the regional final with a win and a win by No. 4 Lawrence over top-seeded Skowhegan, that game wouldn’t be played at the Rams’ field either.

Lippert said the decision to move the game was clearly the right call, but added that some of the players were sad to hear they wouldn’t get another chance to play on their home turf.

“A couple of kids said they wish they’d have known it was their last time playing on Alumni Field when we played Gardiner (in Week 7),” he said. “Not for any tangible reason beyond they would have soaked it in a little more. … They didn’t know it’d be their last time playing on that field, so I did feel bad in that regard.”

• • •

Brunswick could have a key player back for Friday night’s rematch with Cony.

Running back Owen Richardson, the leading rusher in Class B North a season ago who’s been out since Week 1 with a broken collarbone, is nearing a return for the Dragons, but coach Dan Cooper didn’t have much to confirm in terms of the back’s status for Friday.

“He’s going to start practicing this week,” he said. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to play, but we’ll see how he does this week. It’s possible, but we won’t know until Friday.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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