It didn’t take Gardiner football coach Joe White long to find a cuprit for the Tigers’ season-opening 21-20 loss to Windham Friday night.

The Tigers made mistakes from start to finish, and in the moments immediately following a one-point loss, they were already looming large.

“Mistakes set us back, we left some points on the board,” White said. “… We just needed to play a cleaner game. We (made) too many mistakes to pull that one out.”

The miscues came in all varieties. Gardiner was called for 12 penalties, including five false starts and two holds on offense, and the Tigers also made mistakes in their execution. There was a pass tipped at the line for an interception that led to a short field and a Windham touchdown late in the fourth, and Windham receiver Kaleb Cidre was left open on the right side for the winning 17-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds to play.

On the second-to-last Windham drive of the game, Eagles tight end Nick Garrison was left uncovered over the top for a 36-yard reception down to the Gardiner 17-yard line. The Tigers escaped from the drive unscathed with a fourth-down stop, but the play tilted field position and set up Windham’s needing to go only 36 yards for the winning drive.

“We had a blown coverage,” White said. “We were screaming on the sideline that they needed to pick up the tight end, and it was basic man coverage. Two guys dropped down on the No. 2 wide receiver, and the tight end had a free release up the field. That was a dagger.”

The biggest mistake, however, came after Gardiner scored on a 22-yard pass from Sean Michaud to Gage Chase and took a 6-0 lead. Ben Elliott put the Eagles in front on the next play, returning the kickoff 85 yards to the end zone. There were only 10 Gardiner players on the field.

“Special teams need to be reassessed. We need to clean up our special teams,” White said. “There were multiple times this evening when we had 10 guys on the field. When they returned the kick we had 10 guys. You miss that one guy, and the middle opens right up.”

Still, White was optimistic when he turned his attention to the coming games.

“(There are a) lot of things to work on, but a lot of positives to take from it,” he said. “It’s Week 1, and like many teams, we’re shuffling guys and trying to find what’s going to work for us the rest of the way.”

• • •

The flags were flying often as Maranacook and Boothbay made their eight-man debuts Friday night, and coach Jordan DeMillo acknowledged that it wasn’t much easier for the players and coaches than it was for the fans.

“There were a lot of flags for illegal formation, for both sides,” DeMillo said. “It was a little aggravating, only because it wasn’t like (players) were blatantly off the line, they just weren’t getting the signal to get on the line.

“It’s frustrating, right? Because you want to see the game move into some sort of semblance of a process, and it never really got the chance to because it seemed like flags ruled the game.”

DeMillo knew there were going to be some bumps in the road for the first game. Players who have spent their lives playing 11-man only had a few weeks of preseason to get down the differences between the two formats.

“We knew illegal formations were going to play a role in the game,” DeMillo said. “Being only able to have three guys in the backfield, if you have more than one formation you’re asking your guys to remember when they should be on the line, when they should be off the line.”

DeMillo was already coming up with a plan to speed up the learning curve.

“Telling a kid that he needs to be on the ball for a particular play is one thing. Telling him exactly why he needs to be on the ball is another thing,” he said. “We’ll watch film (Monday), I’ll show them why they need to be on the line, and throughout the week I’ll probably have my assistant coach sit on the line of scrimmage and start calling them. I think that’s the only way you’re going to perfect that.”

• • •

With junior running back Jamal Cariglia unavailable Friday night, Cony needed someone to step up in the backfield.

Jake Harris fit the bill, getting nine touches for over 50 yards as the Rams beat Mt. Blue 35-18.

“He blocked well when (quarterback) Riley (Geyer) ran the ball, and it was good to see,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “He’s a kid that played freshman as a freshman, J.V. as a sophomore. I don’t think he expected to get his opportunity this quickly at the varsity level, and he filled right in.

“He ran the ball hard and caught the ball out of the backfield and did what Cony running backs have to do, pass protect and be a part of the pass game. … He’s a kid that’s in the weight room all the time and just happened to be behind some pretty good running backs during his career. Now he has a chance to play.”

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