Cony High School quarterback Taylor Heath tries to elude several Lawrence High School defenders deep in his own end zone during the first half of a 2016 game in Fairfield. File photo

GARDINER — First, Joe White’s eyes went wide. Then the Gardiner football coach chuckled, half in astonishment, half in disbelief.

White knew that his running back, Nate Malinowski, had had a good game in the team’s playoff-opening win over Morse, but he was hearing for the first time how good. Twenty-four carries, 381 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Tigers to a 26-12 victory over the Shipbuilders.

“That’s an insane amount of yards. I didn’t even think a game would go that long,” he said. “I’m really happy for Nate. … I think he was feeling pretty good tonight. He carried the load and he just did an incredible job.”

It was an excellent game, but it has company, as coaches in the area have seen epic performances in the past. Here are some others that left them shaking their heads and searching for words:

• • •

The Winslow football team had lost two straight Class C title games going into 2014. The Black Raiders returned to the final that November against Leavitt.

And coach Mike Siviski could see determination on the part of his players — none more so than running back Dylan Hapworth.

“I think he was frustrated, and a lot of kids were frustrated, by our state championship performances,” he said. “Sometimes, failure can be a great motivator.”

Hapworth proved it, gaining 300 all-purpose yards and running for 236, scoring seven touchdowns and kicking eight extra points to account for 50 points in a 62-14 victory.

“That’s the best performance I’ve ever seen,” Siviski said. “When anybody has a performance like that, I think it takes you by surprise.”

The Hornets had no answer for him. Hapworth scored on runs of 25, 3, 59, 3, 5, 2 and 7 yards, red-hot on a bitterly cold, 17-degree night.

“He came up to talk to me, he had water on the front of his jersey and it was all ice. It was frozen solid,” Siviski said. “It was fun to watch, fun to experience. … He just had a lot of skills. Whatever ‘it’ is, he had it.”

Winslow running back Dylan Hapworth, right, breaks away from Leavitt defenders in the first half of the 2014 Class C state title game at the University of Maine at Orono. Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

• • •

Cony traveled to Brewer as an underdog for the B North semifinals in 2016, looking to score a second straight upset.

It didn’t happen. The Rams lost 44-34. But it wasn’t because of their quarterback.

Taylor Heath nearly guided Cony to the shocker, completing 22 of 36 passes for 370 yards and five touchdowns, while also picking off a pair of passes.

“I told him after the game, 375 and five touchdowns is a Ben Lucas game. But you had two picks,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “We knew if we were going to win it was going to have to be a shootout. … To hang with them for a while had a lot to do with Taylor’s performance that night.”

Heath found Eli Dutil for four touchdowns and Jordan Roddy for one, guiding the Rams to a 34-28 lead before Brewer rallied in the fourth.

“The balls he was throwing were right on the money,” Lippert said. “The first one was a hitch-and-go to Dutil on their sideline, it’s literally, if he were jogging and not even looking, he might have caught it involuntarily.”

It was ability that Lippert saw each week, and on a big stage, it all clicked.

“Taylor was one of the best quarterbacks in the state that year,” he said. “We saw flashes of it, certainly not for four quarters like we did that night, but it wasn’t surprising to me that he was able to do that.”

• • •

In 2012, Bangor was supposed to be the Eastern Maine Class A power, and Brunswick was supposed to be the juggernaut.

And then the season began, Brunswick coach Dan Cooper unleashed Jared Jensen, and everything changed.

Jensen ran for 428 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries, lifting Brunswick to a 36-28 victory over the Rams in a performance that stunned the state — and even Jensen’s coaches.

“It was an unknown, because we didn’t show that in the preseason. We hid it,” Cooper said. “We were trying to surprise them. At the same time, we surprised ourselves.”

That’s not to say Cooper didn’t know Jensen could play. The plan all along was to hand off almost exclusively to the senior. But as Brunswick called 32 Power over and over, what he did with it took everyone by surprise.

“Every time he touched the ball it was a 20-yard run or a long touchdown run,” Cooper said. “He’d hit the hole, cut back. Bangor was big up front, but he was so explosive, they didn’t have an answer for him. … He was taking 7- or 8-yard runs and turning them into 30-yard runs.”

Afterward, the perception changed.

“It was like ‘Holy cow, Brunswick’s for real,’ ” Cooper said. “I’d never seen a performance like that before.”

• • •

Madison coach Scott Franzose has seen plenty of talented ballcarriers come his way. But what he got from quarterback Chase Malloy in 2015 was at another level.

Malloy helped the Bulldogs clinch a home playoff game for the first time in 20 years when he passed and ran his team past Hermon, 64-24, in the 2015 regular-season finale.

Franzose estimates Malloy ran for 175 yards and threw for 250. He accounted for five touchdowns — two on the ground, three through the air.

“It was just a monster game,” Franzose said. “Chase was always a really fundamental, a very accurate quarterback, one of those guys with about a 70 percent completion percentage. And he was on that day.”

When he wasn’t throwing, Malloy carved the Hawks up with his legs. Madison rolled out a formation with all four receivers on one side, forcing Hermon to overcompensate and leave space in the middle of the field. Malloy found those lanes.

“They were clearing the box,” Franzose said. “He had two or three very big runs. I think one was about a 75-yard touchdown run and he was untouched the entire way.”

The stats were piling up. Malloy just didn’t know it.

“He said ‘Wow, I didn’t realize that,’ ” Franzose said. “You want players to stay in the moment, do their job, and you love to see them have that success.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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