GARDINER — This was a night on which a number of early stumbles could have hampered the Gardiner football team.

The Tigers were gashed through the air on the opening drive of Friday’s game against Mt. Blue; they also gave up what could have been a momentum-killing touchdown on a bizarre special teams play. 

In the circumstances, some teams might have capitulated — yet the Tigers punched back.

Gardiner rolled to a 43-22 victory over Mt. Blue in Friday night’s regular season finale at Hoch Field. The win came as the Tigers combined a balanced offensive attack with a bend-but-don’t break defensive showing to snap a three-game losing streak ahead of the Class B North playoffs.

“We needed this one after the past few weeks, and the kids were on it,” said Gardiner head coach Pat Munzing. “We had a really good mix and bounced around to a bunch of different things in terms of our plays. … Defensively, we were able to get off the field when we needed.”

After tossing two long passes to Isaac Wrigley, Mt. Blue quarterback Jayden Meader scored a rushing touchdown from 10 yards out to put the Cougars (3-5) up 7-0 after just 1 minute, 41 seconds of play. Gardiner, though, responded just two minutes later as a Wyatt Chadwick touchdown run on fourth-and-goal from the 6 tied the game at 7.


Gardiner (4-4) would then go up 15-7 on a pair of improbable plays as time expired in the first quarter. First, Chadwick evaded multiple tacklers and spun his way down the sidelines for a 44-yard score; then, holder Cole Brann picked up a botched snap on the extra point and ran it in for a successful 2-point try.

If that sequence was unusual, it had nothing on the touchdown Mt. Blue would use to tie the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Gardiner players gave up on the play after a failed onside kick failed to go 10 yards. With none of the Tigers looking, the Cougars wisely picked up the ball and took it all the way for a score.

“That was tough, but we knew we needed to come back out and get right back after it,” Munzing said. “We’ve had a few of those plays happen throughout the season, and we haven’t really responded back. It was great to see tonight how we were able to respond and say, ‘You know what? Next play.’”

That response was immediate as Gardiner went 67 yards in nine plays with Colton Dube scoring from 5 yards out to put Gardiner up 22-15. The Tigers extended the lead two drives later as an 8-yard pass from Chadwick to Theron Corliss 1:28 before halftime made it 29-15, a score that remained entering the fourth quarter after a scoreless third. 

Chadwick, whose touchdown pass to Cole Brann with 3:19 left provided Gardiner’s final score following a 5-yard touchdown run from Evan Michaud to begin the period, completed 16 of 26 passes for 197 yards and ran 13 times for 123 yards. Michaud had a balanced game himself, rushing six times for 55 yards and making three catches for 33 yards.

Dube shouldered a big load for Gardiner in the run game, carrying the ball 24 times for 163 yards. In addition to Michaud, Corliss (four receptions, 64 yards), Brann (three receptions, 33 yards) and Zach Kristan (three receptions, 27 yards) all caught multiple passes for the Tigers.


“Our linemen did a great job blocking up front, our receivers ran the right routes, and everything lined up perfect,” Chadwick said. “(Corliss) did a great job; he was running really good routes, and like I said, our linemen gave me a lot of time to throw back there.”

On the other side of the ball, Mt. Blue did have success through the air against Gardiner with Meader (19 of 34, 272 yards) and Wrigley (nine catches, 190 yards) frequently linking up for big plays. Yet the Tigers routinely stopped the Cougars on key third- and fourth-down plays and also got a pair of clutch interceptions from Hunter Burgess.

“It was about bending but not breaking,” said Chadwick, who also made some key plays in the secondary. “We worked really on one-on-ones in practice and worked on our coverages. We wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing out there, and we ran all our defenses properly.”

The win was sorely needed for Gardiner after losing a tough game to Cony last week. The Tigers’ ability to collect themselves following that rivalry loss and respond to the early-game challenges, Munzing said, should inspire confidence in the group as the postseason arrives.

“That stung, especially after that slide,” Munzing said. “Our kids did a great job of regrouping and focusing and getting back to some of the things that we were doing well earlier in the year. We got in front of that in practice, and it showed.”

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