WELLS — One minute Winthrop held the high-powered Wells offense scoreless and the next minute — literally — the Warriors exploded for three touchdowns for a hole the Ramblers couldn’t overcome.

The three TDs in 49 seconds late in the first quarter gave Wells a 20-0 lead en route to a 41-22 Class D South semifinal victory over the Ramblers at Wells Memorial Field.

Payton McKay finished with 196 yards rushing and four touchdowns while backfield mate Tyler Bridge scored two times among his 124 yards on the ground.

The top-seeded Warriors (10-0) — winners of 26 straight which includes last year’s Class D championship and a title in Class C in 2016 — next face the winner of Friday night’s showdown between Oak Hill and Madison. The regional final is scheduled for Nov. 9 at Wells.

“I think Winthrop was trying to stop Tyler and we were able to hit a couple plays with Payton,” said longtime Wells Coach Tim Roche. “We found a kid (in McKay) who can run as good as Tyler.”

Bridge exploded for 307 yards and seven TDs in its 49-14 quarterfinal win over Poland.

The offensive line stepped up, made the blocks and opened the holes for us that allowed us to score,” said McKay, giving all the credit to guards Dylan Whitney and Joshua Martinez, tackles Nate Curtis and Morgan Welch-Thompson, center Cameron Barker and tight end Matt Ouellette.

“This (win) wasn’t easy. (Winthrop) played hard all game.’

Bridge got things going for the Warriors when he capped a 48-yard drive with a five-yard plunge with 2:48 left in the first quarter. The score was set up by a 42-yard hookup between quarterback Matt Sherburne and Bridge on 3rd-and-5.

The Wells defense — it allowed one first down and 31 yards in the first half — and special teams played a big part for a 26-8 lead at the half.

On the Ramblers next possession Sherburne and Ouellette combined to pressure Keegan Choate into an errant throw on third down. A 15-yard punt return by Bridge put the ball on the Winthrop 47. McKay went in untouched on the first play of the drive on a trap up the middle.

On the ensuing kickoff Henry Thiffault jumped on a fumble to give the Warriors the ball at the Ramblers 27. On the first play of the drive the Wells coaching staff called the same play with McKay again scoring on a one-play drive. The kick failed but the lead was all of a sudden 20-0 with 1:52 showing on the clock in the first quarter.

Wells had four TD runs for at least 44 yards.

“They broke some big plays and we can’t afford to give up big plays against a team (like Wells),” said Winthrop Coach Dave St. Hillaire, whose fifth-seeded team upset No. 4 Spruce Mountain 38-0 last week. “To quote Yogi Berra, it was deja’ vu all over again (with the long TDs).”

McKay’s third touchdown of the first half — from 44 yards out with 6:57 remaining in the second quarter — made the score 26-0 before Winthrop got on the board on a 77-yard kickoff return by Jake Sousa.

McKay iced the game on his team’s opening drive in the second half when it appeared he was bottled up on a 3rd-and-inches run. But he spun out of the defender’s grasp and rumbled down the left sideline for a 46-yard score and a 34-8 cushion.

Winthrop answered 1:34 later on a Choate to Dylan Lajoie 16-yard touchdown pass but Bridge found the end zone again 3:20 into the fourth quarter on a 45-yard run when he slipped through a small opening on the right side of the offensive line and went in untouched.

“We expect to win here at Wells,” Roche said. “I know it might sound arrogant but that is what we expect at Wells.”


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