OAKLAND — Kayden Weston was sure Friday night’s Class B North football battle between Gardiner and Messalonskee was going to be close.

But he had no idea it would be his play — a 51-yard touchdown run off a reverse — that would be the difference for the Tigers, who beat the Eagles 16-14 at Veterans Field.

“I was pretty nervous, it was (my) first run of the game,” said Weston, a senior wide receiver. “We were down, so we had to turn it up. Turned the wheels on and got the touchdown.”

Gardiner (2-1) struggled offensively throughout the game, but showcased a bend but don’t break defense that forced key turnovers out of Messalonskee (1-2).

“Our kids were able to adapt and change some things, change some coverages and some different fronts,” Gardiner head coach Pat Munzing said. “To be able to do that, for our kids, that’s what it takes to win football games.”

Weston’s touchdown came with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter. On the Tiger 49-yard line, Weston was given an inside handoff, sprinting toward the sideline before turning upfield and finding just enough room to take off into the end zone. The extra point by Theron Corliss gave Gardiner the 16-14 lead.


“I knew it was going to be a close one,” Weston said. “With their option, the way they were pitching it off, I knew they’d have trouble covering that.”

Messalonksee halfback Bryce Crowell, top, scores a two point conversion as Gardiner linebacker Ian Spence tackles him on the goal line during a football game Friday in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Weston finished with two rushes for 48 yards, which led the Gardiner ground game. Colton Dube added 28 yards on 11 carries.

“To get wins is huge,” Munzing said. “Any time you can notch one in the win column, it’s good for your program. It’s good for these kids that the work and effort they’re putting in is valued and it shows up on the scoreboard.”

Penalties and mental errors ultimately doomed the Eagles, who countered the Tigers with a balanced rushing attack, led by Bryce Crowell, who had 95 yards on 17 carries.

“We played hard, our kids always play hard,” Messalonskee head coach Walter Polky said. “It came down to turnovers and penalties. We lost the battle with turnovers and penalties. We had a couple opportunities, but couldn’t take advantage of them. That’s the difference right there. (Gardiner) had a great play on the reverse. But you can’t turn the ball over and you can’t start (an offensive drive) 1st and 15.”

Messalonskee’s Drake Brunelle, left, runs past Gardiner defensive back Cody Dingwell during a football game Friday in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Messalonskee struck first, ending a 9-play, 64-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run by Garrett Card for a 6-0 lead. On its next possession, the Eagles were backed deep into their own territory and were forced to punt. Freshman punter Denny Martin took an inadvertent knee in the end zone for a safety, cutting the lead to 6-2 in favor of the Eagles.

On its next possession, Gardiner scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run by quarterback Wyatt Chadwick. Corliss’ extra point gave the Tigers a 9-6 lead.

Messalonskee managed to take the lead back just before halftime, when quarterback Drake Brunelle, who took over after starter Sam Dube was injured, hit Card on a 4-yard pass. Crowell’s run on the two-point conversion brought the lead to 14-9.

Card had three receptions for 64 yards for the Eagles.

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