WATERVILLE — Dawson Harrison was running so much Saturday that he ran out of breath.

It’s not often in a football game that a player has to run the entire length of the field on one play. Yet that’s what Harrison, Waterville’s starting running back, had to do on a 99-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the Purple Panthers’ 50-14 victory over Ellsworth/Sumner.

“I was pretty out of breath, but it was fun,” Harrison said of the long touchdown run, which put Waterville up 36-0 late in the first half. “I wasn’t thinking I was going to take it the whole way and score, but hey, whatever happens, happens, right?”

What happened in Waterville’s season opener was a dominant performance from Harrison, who wasn’t about to complain about scoring on the longest possible play from scrimmage, in a blowout victory. The junior scored six touchdowns on nine carries and racked up 267 yards on the ground as the Panthers breezed to the win.

It was a red-hot start to the game for Waterville (1-0), which scored on its first three possessions. The Panthers took just 1:14 to take a 6-0 lead on a 31-yard pass from Wyatt Gradie to Spencer Minihan, and after back-to-back three-and-outs, runs of 31 and 28 yards from Harrison made it 20-0 after just five minutes of play.

Waterville’s momentum then stalled a bit as Ellsworth/Sumner stuffed the Panthers on back-to-back drives. Waterville eventually broke through again as Harrison scored again from 31 yards out, and after his defense stopped the Eagles (0-1) on the 1-yard line, the senior scored again — this time from 99 yards out.


“Our offensive line was playing well today, and that set up some great runs for Dawson,” Waterville head coach Isaac LeBlanc said. “Dawson has great vision, so when you set him up with those blocks, he can make a great read. He had three or four of those great reads today that turned what would have been a 5-yard gain into a touchdown.”

That was the case again late in the first half as Harrison scored on an 8-yard run with 1:50 left to put Waterville up 42-0. He then scored his final touchdown on a 34-yard scamper four minutes into the third quarter. Ellsworth/Sumner ended the Panthers’ shutout bid in the fourth with two late touchdowns.

Dustan Hunter added 42 rushing yards on two carries for Waterville and also took three kick returns deep into Ellsworth/Sumner territory to set up scoring drives. Gradie had 27 rushing yards on three carries in addition to his opening-drive touchdown pass to Minihan.

Along with keeping Ellsworth/Sumner off the scoreboard until late, Waterville’s defense forced three turnovers. The Panthers also registered nearly a dozen tackles-for-loss and countless pass breakups, some of which came from Harrison in the secondary.

“We’re going to talk about his offensive stats today, but he was also great for us at corner,” LeBlanc said. “As a team, our guys do a really good job studying film and identifying what the other team is good at and countering that. We know we’re going to be better on defense than we were last year to get to where we want to go.”

Where Waterville wants to go this season is back to the state title game. Even without Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist Liam Von Oesen, the Panthers have a roster they can compete with any in an eight-man Large-School class where many of their top competitors have also suffered significant losses.

“Losing Liam is big, but we made it to states last year, and we’re hoping to go back there this year and win it,” Harrison said. “We have a great team this year, and Nov. 12 is our goal.”

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