Mountain Valley’s Jacob Blanchard, left, uses a stiff arm against Spruce Mountain’s Brandon Frey to get extra yards during Friday night’s football game at Hosmer Field in Rumford. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
RUMFORD — What was expected to be a smashmouth Class D South quarterfinal on Friday night between No. 5 Spruce Mountain and No. 4 Mountain Valley started with the two sides attempting seven passes in a row.
Before fans started checking their GPS to make sure they had come to the right game, Mountain Valley started establishing its running game. Spruce Mountain never could, and the result was a 26-6 Falcons win at Chet Bulger Field.
Jacob Blanchard and Andrew McDonald scored two touchdowns apiece and led a multi-faceted Mountain Valley running attack that rolled up 367 yards to earn the Falcons’ first playoff win in six years.
Mountain Valley (5-4) will face unbeaten top seed Wells in the semifinals next week. Spruce Mountain ends its season at 5-4.
Blanchard rushed 16 times for 154 yards and both of his scores. McDonald carried nine times for 77 yards and a touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass from Dylan Desroches.
“Last week (in a 54-0 loss to Wells), we didn’t move the ball at all, and we wanted to leave that behind us, so we were just ready to fire out,” Blanchard said. “We were ready to play. Hats off to everyone, every lineman. Everyone did their job today.”
“I think tonight was a return to form for us,” Mountain Valley coach Pat Mooney said. “I think our guys were locked in all week.”
The Phoenix, meanwhile, gained just 28 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback Brett Frey ran for their only touchdown.
“We studied up on a lot of film and worked as hard as we could in practice to get ready for this game and said we’re going to come out and hit them as hard as we can,” Mountain Valley guard/linebacker Ian Brennick said.
Frey completed 15 of 34 passes for 197 yards and one interception.
“We just couldn’t run the ball. We had to rely on throwing it,” Spruce Mountain coach Dave Frey said. “We had a lot of dropped passes, a lot of wrong routes. I mean, this is stuff we’ve done all season long.”
“I think (Spruce Mountain’s passing) was the most passing we’ve seen all year,” said Blanchard, who had an interception.
Mountain Valley’s passing fancy went away after a fumble on a completion on the first play of the game. Zak Toothaker scooped it up and returned it to the Falcon 47.
A 29-yard Frey completion to Toothaker got the Phoenix to the 11, but they didn’t get any closer. Four Frey passes in a row fell incomplete, including a fourth-down attempt to Nick Lombardi in the end zone.
Two possessions later, Blanchard ran right, then cut back towards the middle of the field 89 yards for his first touchdown.
Avery Bradeen, Jasper Turner, Ethan Laubauskas and Desroches also contributed to the Falcons’ running attack, and most of them chipped in on their next scoring drive, which came early in the second quarter. But it was McDonald who found the end zone on a run up the middle from 16 yards out to make it 12-0.
“That’s when we’re at our best, when we can circulate the ball around,” Mooney said. “When we know teams are going to key on one or two of our backs, it always opens up the third guy. As long as our line is blocking, that’s there.”
Despite having that same lead at halftime, the Falcons started the second half with a successful onside kick, which Desroches recovered near midfield. They couldn’t capitalize, however, stalling at Spruce’s 9.
Mountain Valley did make the Phoenix pay for Blanchard’s interception and return to Spruce’s 21 later in the quarter. On 3rd-and-goal from the 16, Desroches rolled right and threw on the run to McDonald in the end zone. Desroches added the two-point conversion for a 20-0 lead with 3:55 left in the third.
Frey got the Phoenix on the board with his six-yard touchdown run early in the fourth, but Mountain Valley answered on its next possession with a 12-yard touchdown run to essentially put the game away.
Spruce Mountain drove to the Falcon 1 on its next possession. After being set back by a false start on first down, the Phoenix were robbed of a down as the down marker indicated second down on the next play when it should have remained first down. They turned the ball over on downs three plays later, even though they should have had four.
Mountain Valley’s Avery Bradeen, right, celebrates with Jacob Blanchard after Blanchard ran for a 89 yard touchdown during Friday night’s football game at Hosmer Field in Rumford. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Mountain Valley’s William Bean can’t quite reach a long pass during Friday night’s football game at Hosmer Field in Rumford. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Mountain Valley’s Jasper Turner gets through the line and tackles Spruce Mountain’s Kayle Stewart for a big loss of yards during Friday night’s football game at Hosmer Field in Rumford. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Spruce Mountain’s Jaden Castonguay makes a spetactular catch during Friday night’s football game at Hosmer Field in Rumford. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Mountain Valley’s Nate White lays out and nearly hauls in a long pass during Friday night’s football game at Hosmer Field in Rumford. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Mountain Valley’s Avery Bradeen, finds open field on his way to an 89 yard touchdown during Friday night’s football game at Hosmer Field in Rumford. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)