Members of the Gardiner and Skowhegan football teams meet at midfield for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston prior to a Class B North quarterfinal game Monday in Gardiner. Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

GARDINER — It’s rare for a football game under the lights not to be met with much fanfare. However, the first high school sporting event held in five days in central Maine saw a solemn beginning.

No introductions were had prior to Monday night’s Class B North quarterfinal showdown between Gardiner and Skowhegan at Hoch Field. Instead, the two teams formed a circle and held a minute-long moment of silence in honor of the 18 people killed in a mass shooting last Wednesday in Lewiston.

“The emotions were obviously there, and they were palpable tonight,” said Gardiner head coach Pat Munzing. “With what went on in our state last week, the emotions that follow that are normal, and it’s about how you harness those emotions to come out following an emotional week and play a football game.”

On the field, Gardiner harnessed them in a 41-8 victory over Skowhegan as the duo of Asher Nagy (19-28, 253 yards, touchdown) and Zach Kristan (10 catches, 142 yards, touchdown) led a dominant passing attack. Owen Chadwick added a pair of touchdown runs for the Tigers, who advanced to face Lawrence in the regional semis.

No. 4 Gardiner (5-4) forced a punt to begin the game and immediately found an offensive rhythm through the connection of Nagy and Kristan. Nagy found the senior captain three times for 44 yards on the opening drive, which culminated in a 15-yard Owen Chadwick touchdown run with 4:45 left in the first quarter.

After fifth-ranked Skowhegan (2-7) drove to the red zone only to turn the ball over on downs, Gardiner capped off a 90-yard drive with a 15-yard pass from Nagy to Kristan to go up 14-0. The Tigers then stopped the River Hawks again before Brady Davidson took an end-around 52 yards for a score with 4:34 to play in the half.


“We played great, especially on the offensive line,” said the sophomore Nagy, who passed for 175 yards in the first half alone. “The only reason I was able to get all those passing yards was because of what our O-line did; they played hard and won the game in the trenches. It was a real team win.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Gardiner scored a pair of touchdowns in quick succession early in the fourth on touchdown runs by Evan Michaud and Nagy. Darren Gilman then scored on an 8-yard run for Skowhegan, after which Chadwick scored from 6 yards out with 4:50 play for the final points of the evening.

Gardiner racked up 426 total yards to Skowhegan’s 129 as a balanced rushing attack complemented Nagy’s passing effort. The sophomore’s two interceptions as the first half expired and with the game already in hand late proved harmless as the Tigers avenged a 22-14 loss to the River Hawks just 17 days earlier.

Members of the Gardiner football team celebrate following a 41-8 victory over Skowhegan in a Class B North quarterfinal game Monday in Gardiner. Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

“We rallied after that loss, and we really wanted to beat these guys; we were starving for this win,” said Nagy, whose team entered Monday on a three-game losing streak. “It’s pretty cold out, but the community came out, and it really motivated us. … We haven’t won in the first round in (five) years, so it feels great.”

It was certainly frigid Monday with the temperatures in the mid-30s and a slight sleet briefly falling on Hoch Field just before kickoff. The post-game Gatorade bath to celebrate Munzing’s first playoff win and the Tigers’ first since the 2018 Class C South quarterfinals, Munzing said, was possibly the coldest he’s felt in his life.

Although last week caused emotional ripples everywhere throughout the state, they were particularly heightened for Gardiner. Munzing, a Maine State Police trooper, was called into Lewiston last Wednesday to assist law enforcement, and Nate Stubbert, the school’s athletic director, lost a family member in the tragedy.


“The kids picked up on the feeling of myself and some other law-enforcement members and our community, and obviously with Mr. Stubbert as well,” Munzing said. “I think you learn a lot of life skills through the game of football, and I think we saw that from our kids this week. I’m really proud of how they handled it.”

The result means there will be a new state champion in Class B after Skowhegan ended a 44-year Gold Ball drought last year. The River Hawks improved throughout the year after failing to score in their first three games, but injuries at key positions were simply too much to overcome.

Among the missing players for Skowhegan were starters Jason Aubin (quarterback) and Drake Tracy (receiver, cornerback). The River Hawks also lost running Aydan Mulcahy early in the second quarter, leaving both the passing game (Trevor Austin 1 of 6, 28 yards) and running game (33 rushes for 121 yards) without key pieces.

“When you look out there and pretty much have 22 new starters, you just hope for improvement, and I do think we saw that week to week,” said Skowhegan interim head coach Brad Cyr. “I think injuries forced our hand, but I’m proud of the kids, and hats off to Gardiner because they attacked and did a great job.”

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