H.S. football: Dirigo runs by Gray-New Gloucester

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Dirigo’s Michael Packard nearly hauls in a pass in the endzone while being defended by Gray-New Gloucester’s Trent Overcash during Friday night’s football game in Dirigo. Dirigo defeated Gray-New Gloucester 22-8. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

DIXFIELD — The first half was a defensive struggle between Gray-New Gloucester and Dirigo, and the host Cougars held a narrow, low-scoring lead at the break. Then Dirigo got its running game in gear to pull enough away for a 22-8 victory at Harlow Park on Friday.

“It’s always a hard-fought, grind-out battle,” Dirigo senior Alex Gorham said. “You know, I think we’re more of a hard-nosed football team. That’s always been our style here. We’re trying to get more passes — it worked pretty well tonight — but when it comes down to the end of the game, we’re smash-mouth football.”

The teams combined for just 86 yards of offense and five first downs in the first half, the Cougars (2-0) accounting for 74 of those yards and all five of the first downs. Yet they only led 7-2 after two quarters.

“Field position bothered us a couple times in the first half,” Dirigo coach Jim Herson said. “It was just a matter of settling down at halftime.”

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Dallas Berry got Dirigo on the scoreboard on the Cougars’ second drive, finishing it off with an 11-yard run and the extra point.

The Patriots (0-2), otherwise, didn’t make things easy for the Cougars, who also didn’t help themselves. The Gray-New Gloucester defense opened with a fourth-down stop of the Cougars deep in Patriots territory. They later blocked a Berry punt, and also recovered a Dirigo fumble in the first half.

“They came out in a double-wing at the beginning, which we didn’t exactly expect, but they adjusted pretty well to that,” Patriots coach Brian Jahna said. “Didn’t break down a couple of times, but otherwise I thought we played pretty well defensively, and got some turnovers, which was good. Some pretty key stops, which was pretty key as well.”

The two first-half points came on a safety after a Dirigo punt snap went through the back of the end zone. It was the second straight bad punt snap for the Cougars.

Dirigo, which got into punt formation four times in the first half, didn’t have to in the second half, thanks to the run game. A fumble on the Cougars’ first drive of the second half was quickly washed away by Cole Brown’s interception of Patriots quarterback Connor Myatt, then Gorham finished off a scoring drive with a 1-yard plunge.

“We asked our backs to run a little bit harder going through the line-of-scrimmage,” Hersom said. “You know, the holes were there, we just weren’t hitting them quick enough, and they were able to recover and get to us.”

“I think all the running backs — personally myself — I knew I had another level, just run it a little quicker,” said Gorham, who ran 22 times for 170 yards, including 159 after halftime. “I found some more ground outside, and I really turned it up.”

The Patriots answered with their best drive of the game. Three plays in, they earned their first first down of the game, then Gabriel Gendreau ran the ball 37 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown on the next play.

The Cougars countered with a long scoring drive, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run from Gorham and a two-point run from Berry.

The Patriots were forced to go to the pass game late, and Myatt had two of his three completions on their final drive, but Brown made his second interception of the game with 2:44 remaining.

“A little scary in the end, but we got through, made a play,” Gorham said.

Myatt showed some promise, breaking free of a couple sack attempts on the drive and keeping his eyes downfield.

“He did a great job,” Jahna said of Myatt. “And we really have not had the chance to spend almost any time throwing the ball at practice because we’re putting in just so many new running things.”

Despite having his helmet ripped off, resulting in a 15-yard penalty against Gray-New Gloucester, Dirigo’s Alex Gorham continues to drive forward as whistles blow to stop play during Friday night’s football game in Dixfield. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Dirigo’s Michael Packard sheds a Gray-New Gloucester tackler as he heads up the field during Friday night’s game. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Dirigo’s Jack Lavorgna celebrates after recovering a fumble he caused during the first half of Friday night’s football game against Gray-New Gloucester. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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