H.S. football: Defense rallies Falcons past Phoenix

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Mountain Valley’s Dylan Desroches looks for a way through Spruce Mountain’s Jack Bryant, as Avery Pingree tries to make a hole during Friday night’s football game in Livermore Falls. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

LIVERMORE FALLS — Mountain Valley senior defensive end Draven Finnegan hopes he got a glimpse of the future in the Falcons’ second-half performance against Spruce Mountain on Friday night.

“If we play like that all season, I think we’ve got dubs (wins) for days,” he said.

Mountain Valley’s defense took its cue from Finnegan and owned the second half as the Falcons rallied for a 22-15 win over Spruce Mountain at Griffin Field.

What had been a frustrating first half for the Falcons (2-2) appeared to carry over in the second half when, while trailing 7-0, they failed to capitalize on Jacob Blanchard’s 63-yard kick return to start the second half. After the Falcons fumbled a snap on third-and-goal, Tate Walton thwarted their foray to Spruce’s 8-yard line with a sack on fourth-and-goal.

On third-and-9 on Spruce’s ensuing series, Finnegan cut off QB Jack Bryant at the corner, knocked down his option pitch to the running back, scooped up the fumble at the 25 and chugged 20 yards down the sideline before being dragged down at Spruce’s 5.

“I saw the quarterback was going to pitch it, so I just tipped it, picked it up and ran,” Finnegan said. “I definitely thought (I had a touchdown) but I was little too slow at the end.”

Two plays later, Jasper Turner ran it in from the 5. Jacob Blanchard followed with the two-point conversion that put Mountain Valley in front for the first time and for good, 8-7.

The teams combined for 23 penalties, and a series of three in a row by the Phoenix (2-2) before, during and after a punt on their ensuing possession helped the Falcons start at Spruce’s 39 for its next scoring drive.

That touchdown came on a powerful 25-yard run by Turner, who ran through a couple of Phoenix defenders before carrying a third one into the end zone. Blanchard ran in the two-pointer again for a 16-7 Mountain Valley lead with 2:47 left in the third.

“I just saw the end zone and kept trucking,” he said. “This week in practice we really got on our blocking assignments and really came together as a team.”

After allowing 146 total yards and eight first downs in the first half, the Falcons yielded only 75 yards and four first downs in the second half.

“We regrouped at halftime and talked it over,” Turner said. “We basically said we needed to stop putting each other down and start picking each other up, and that’s basically what happened in the second half.”

The Falcons went to the air to take a 22-7 lead as Dylan Desroches connected with Keegan Davis for a 47-yard touchdown with 8:43 left.

“Before we scored our second touchdown, I said to (offensive coordinator) Devin Roberts, ‘We’ve been pounding the middle so much, that outside is there whenever we want it,'” Mountain Valley coach Pat Mooney said. “We waited, because we scored on that drive. But we knew it would be there on the next drive.”

Spruce Mountain made it interesting again with Bryant’s seven-yard TD pass to Kayle Stewart and two-point pass to Walton that made it a one-score game again with 4:23 left.

The Phoenix forced the Falcons to punt on their next offensive series, giving them a chance to tie it, starting at their own 12 with 1:36 left. But Ethan Laubauskas intercepted Bryant’s pass with 36 seconds remaining to clinch it.

“We just didn’t execute at times,” Spruce Mountain coach David Frey said. “This is a conference where all of the teams are tough and you’ve got come to play every night. When you come out and play flat like we did … We played poorly in the first half and we were up 7-0. That indicates we are good, but we can’t keep making these mistakes.”

The game was a battle for field position for the first 20-plus minutes before Bryant (17 carries, 62 yards, 91 yards passing) weaved his way down the left sideline for a 32-yard touchdown run that gave the Phoenix the 7-0 lead.

“We were stuck in the mud in the first half. Penalties killed us,” Mooney said. “Once we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot, we proved that we can run option (and) power and control the clock.”

Spruce Mountain’s Kayle Stewart runs down the field with the ball while avoiding Mountain Valley’s Andrews MacDonald during the early minutes of Friday night’s football game in Livermore Falls. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Mountain Valley’s Dylan Desroches is taken down by Spruce Mountain’s Trent Tibbetts during Friday night’s football game in Livermore Falls. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Spruce Mountain’s Zach Toothacher runs with ball as Mountain Valley’s Justin Karcher attempts a take-down during Friday night’s football game in Livermore Falls. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Mountain Valley’s Anthony Mazza runs the ball down the field as Spruce Mountain’s Jaden Castonguay initiates a tackle during Friday night’s football game in Livermore Falls. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Spruce Mountain’s Kayle Stewart attempts to push past Mountain Valley’s Jasper Turner during Friday night’s football game in Livermore Falls. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Spruce Mountain’s Jack Bryant gets taken down by Mountain Valley’s Keegan Davis during Friday night’s football game in Livermore Falls. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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