PORTLAND — What had been there for the Lawrence football team all season couldn’t materialize on this stage.

The strengths of the Bulldogs’ pushes were no less, their game plan no different, their methodical ground game by no means absent. Yet facing a Kennebunk team with much of the same strengths and a bit more size executing the same strategy, Lawrence saw a memorable season end without the prize it desperately sought.

Lawrence suffered a 40-20 defeat to Kennebunk in the Class B championship game Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. The Rams outgained the Bulldogs 369-164 on the ground in a game that was relatively tight throughout before the South champs exerted their will late to deny Lawrence a fifth Gold Ball.

“We gave a good effort, but they had the size up front that made it tough for our run game to get going consistently,” said Lawrence head coach John Hersom. “They ran the ball well, and a combination of those things worked out really well for them. They had a great push up front; they’re a great team.”

The game started about as poorly as possibly for North champ and top seed Lawrence (8-3). The Bulldogs barely moved the ball in a game-opening three-and-out, after which Kennebunk went 49 yards on 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by Jonah Barstow with 5:13 left in the first quarter.

Lawrence, though, showed some resiliency after getting the ball back late in the opening quarter following three-and-outs by both teams on their ensuing drives. The Bulldogs would go 88 yards on 17 plays, tying the game at 7 with 5:56 left in the half on a 7-yard quarterback keeper by Michael Hamlin.


Lawrence captains, left to right, Colton Carter, Maddox Santone, Colby Nadeau and Cam Dostie hold the runner-up plaque after the Class B football state championship game Saturday in Portland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

South champ and top seed Kennebunk (10-1) answered right back on a 15-yard touchdown run by Brady Stone, but Lawrence would get a wild touchdown in the opening half’s final minute. With 41 seconds left, a Hamlin pass took a bizarre deflection and fell into the arms of Gavin Lunt for an 8-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.

“That was tough, but we told our guys, ‘Hey, just stick to the plan,’” said Kennebunk head coach Keith Noel. “That was our game plan, to win the trenches, and we knew if we stuck to the plan and just made a few adjustments, we could do it. Credit to my dudes up front; they created some big holes.”

The second half would indeed belong to Kennebunk. After Barstow rattled off a 55-yard run on the first play of the half, Brady Stone scored from 7 yards out to put the Rams up 21-14. They then went up 27-14 with 8:05 to play as Elan Keys scored from 8 yards out before Colton Carter scored for Lawrence two minutes later.

The score ended perhaps a little more lopsided than the game actually was as a 46-yard run from Keys with 3:21 left and a 15-yard score from West with 2:01 remaining turned it into a three-score game. The way Kennebunk imposed its will on those drives, though, still said plenty about the Rams’ physical superiority.

“They did a nice job, and they had the size up front to be able to get a good push up front against our defense,” Hersom said. “Our kids held strong and held tough, and I don’t think the score was very indicative of how we played. We gave them everything that we could, but it just wasn’t enough this time.”

Barstow had 167 yards on 23 carries for Kennebunk, which also got 97 yards on eight carries from Keys and 52 yards on eight carries from West. Lawrence got 73 yards on 14 carries from Carter and 56 on 13 from Gavin Wilson. The Bulldogs’ No. 2 back, Gaige Martin, left with an ankle injury in the first quarter.

The state championship game appearance was the first since 2012 for Lawrence. The Bulldogs had fallen one game short of a state title game berth in their previous five tries before finally ending that hex with a 27-7 victory over Cony in last Saturday’s Class B North championship game.

“We don’t feel any different about these kids; they certainly gave it everything they had,” Hersom said. “It certainly was a well-played first half, but we just got overwhelmed there in the second half with them running the football. (Kennebunk is) a great team, and hats off to them.”

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