READFIELD — A frustrating start led to a restless week of practice for the Dirigo football team.

On Friday, the Cougars did something about it.

Charlie Houghton ran 13 times for 60 yards and two touchdowns, and he also threw for two scores as Dirigo beat Maranacook 30-14 at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams.

The win was Dirigo’s first after two losses to start the season.

“It’s a really big win, because next week’s our homecoming week. We’ve got to get on a roll,” said Houghton, who found Trenton Hutchinson (five catches, 96 yards) for both touchdown passes. “We kind of had a setback the first two weeks, had injured players. … This win’s big, coming down here and getting a win on their field.”

“I’m happy for the kids. These kids have worked hard, we’ve gone through ups and downs like everybody else,” Dirigo coach Craig Collins said. “They now know what it feels like to win a high school football game.”

That hunger to get that first win began to show itself in practice leading up to Friday’s game.

“This week was a little more chippy at practice,” Collins said. “And maybe the coach was a little more chippy, too. But they came out and they were ready to play.”

Dirigo cornerback Dylen Packard, left, tackles Maranacook’s Mark Thibodeau during a football game Friday at the Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It was the opener for Maranacook, which had both of its first two games canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. The Black Bears were shorthanded Friday as well, with four starters out.

Maranacook coach Jordan DeMillo said he didn’t want to use the absences as an excuse, but acknowledged the role that rust from two weeks of inaction played in the loss.

“(It’s a) huge difference,” he said. “I hate coming up with excuses, I hate sitting here saying that, because I do believe the team I put out there tonight was capable of winning. But we kind of told them, there was a chance that this team having live experience for two weeks in a row is going to come out and smash us in the mouth and get up early.”

One of the players missing was quarterback Chris Reid. Owen Dunn filled in and ran for 45 yards while teammate Mark Thibodeau rushed for 58, but mistakes primarily with missed blocks, broken tackles and wild snaps prevented Maranacook from rallying back in a close game.

“Too many mistakes,” DeMillo said. “I really feel like, without the mistakes, we were in this game. But too many mistakes, too much rusty stuff killed us tonight.”

Dirigo scored on its first possession when Houghton (7-of-9, 128 yards) found Hutchinson on a 5-yard slant, but Maranacook made it 8-6 when Thomas Struck fell on a bad snap in the end zone with 8:53 left in the second quarter.

The momentum ended on the next play when Hutchinson, who had also ended the previous Maranacook drive with an interception, took the kickoff and ran 71 yards to the Black Bears’ 2-yard line. Houghton scored on the next play, and Dirigo led 16-6.

Dirigo’a Trenton Hutchinson, top, makes the catch in front of Maranacook’s Travis Lemelin during a football game Friday at the Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Cougars were lucky to have Hutchinson on the field — the junior also plays for the boys soccer team, and had to leave a home game against Oak Hill in order to make it to Readfield for the opening kickoff.

“We needed a spark,” Hutchinson said. “To be honest, I don’t even know (what happened on the return). It was just instinct, I guess.”

Maranacook took the first drive of the second half into the red zone and had 1st-and-goal from the 7, but the drive stalled. Dirigo capitalized on the next series, as Houghton found Curtis Errington (15 carries, 54 yards) for a 29-yard catch and then Hutchinson for a 48-yard touchdown and a 24-6 lead with 3:04 left in the third.

Houghton rounded out the Dirigo scoring with a 2-yard run.

“This week in practice felt a little different,” Houghton said. “We finally figured we’ve got to go out and get going.”

Maranacook scored its lone offensive touchdown when Dunn found Struck (two catches, 57 yards) for a a 30-yard pass in the closing seconds.

“It’s tough to come up with excuses,” DeMillo said. “I really felt like we could win this game. We just didn’t play how we wanted to.”

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