Waterville quarterback Liam VanOesen surveys the line of scrimmage during an eight-man football game on Friday against Morse at McMann Field in Bath. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

BATH — Nothing comes easy in football, and that was especially true for Waterville on Friday night.

But in the end, the Purple Panthers did what they needed to do in a tough 58-48 victory over Morse in an eight-man large North division game.

The victory all but assured Waterville (5-1) the No. 1 seed in the North playoffs. Morse (5-2) will likely enter the postseason as the No. 2 seed. The top three seeds in large North receive first-round byes.

“We wanted to be No. 1, it feels pretty good right now,” said Waterville standout quarterback Liam VonOesen.

VonOesen, who missed the last two games with an unspecified injury, had himself a night. The senior rushed for 316 yards and five touchdowns on 28 carries. He completed two of three passes for 67 yards and a touchdown as well.

“I missed a couple of games and I wanted to make up for some of the yardage,” said VanOesen with a grin. “They’re (Morse) a high-quality opponent so I knew I had to come in and play my best.”

VonOesen had touchdown runs of 4, 34, 33, 1, and 49 yards to carry the Purple Panthers. His lone touchdown pass was to wide receiver Spencer Miniham early in the first quarter on a 53-yard rainbow pass over the heads of the Morse defense.

“What a game, that could be our most complete game of the year,” said Waterville head coach Isaac LeBlanc. “We made some really big plays on both sides of the ball, some that changed the complexion of the game.”

The momentum swung late in the first half, when Morse had a first-and-goal on the Waterville 5-yard line. However, Morse quarterback Josh ter Mors was flushed out of the pocket and attempted a pass to Elliot Dorr in the end zone, only Waterville’s Dustan Hunter was there waiting for it.

Hunter snatched the ball out of the air for an interception and sprinted down the sideline for a 101-yard touchdown return.

“That was a game-changer,” said VonOesen. “The boys were amped up, it gave us confidence.”

Added Morse coach Jason Darling, whose team suffered its first loss since Sept. 11: “We played our hearts out tonight. We got bit by the injury bug but we had a bunch of guys step up. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Morse standout running back Gabe Aucoin finished with 285 yards and five rushing touchdowns on 16 carries. He was in and out all night with what he said was leg cramps.

Aucoin also caught four passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 25-yard pass from ter Mors on 4th and 16. ter Mors finished 8 of 14 for 207 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

“We have a lot of mental toughness on this team,” said Darling. “We’re going to have a great week of practice, but we’re also very thankful for the bye week.”

Morse will likely host Camden Hills in a regional semifinals on Oct. 29.

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