H.S. football: Poland airs it out against Gray-NG

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Poland’s Isaiah Hill fights off a stiff arm by Gray-New Gloucester’s Gabriel Gendreau on the opening kickoff to make the tackle during Friday night’s football game in Poland. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

POLAND — A “donnybrook” turned into a no-doubter thanks to three touchdowns in three minutes and three seconds.

That’s the amount of time it took Poland and its passing game to take over Friday night’s Battle of Shaker Hill against rival Gray-New Gloucester, and the Knights rode that late first-half momentum to a 40-8 victory.

“We were getting knocked off the ball for a while. And that was a donnybrook for a while,” Poland coach Spencer Emerson said. “Luckily our pass game allows us to kind of open it up a little bit and put points up quickly.”

With the Knights (3-5) holding a 6-0 lead — thanks to a Josh Cote first-quarter touchdown run — and less than seven minutes left in the second quarter, junior quarterback Brady Downing went 4-of-5 for 49 yards to pace a scoring drive that was capped off by Tyler Tucci’s rumbling touchdown from three yards out with 3:27 left.

Poland then took advantage of a fumble and an interception by the Patriots (0-8) with a pair of touchdown passes from Downing to Zach Cote — the first for 24 yards, the second from 14 yards out — to make it 28-0 with 24.7 seconds left in the first half.

“Things flipped so quickly,” Patriots coach Brian Jahna said. “They are really, really talented. And they have an offense that can score well. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the state, so they can get on you pretty quickly. So we knew that it was a time thing, and we held in there as best we could.”

To the Patriots’ credit, Scott Lynch returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards down to the Poland 15-yard line. But Isaac Fifield picked off Connor Myatt’s pass to squash that threat.

Turnovers doomed the Patriots in the first half, with two fumbles and two interceptions spoiling any offensive momentum. On their second drive of the game, they went from their own 29 to Poland’s 25 before a turnover on downs. Another turnover on downs preceeded the Knights’ three-touchdown spurt late in the first half.

“We felt like that (second) drive really was exactly what we were wanting, and every time we would kind of start getting things going, you know, we turned the ball over,” Jahna said.

The Knights kept their foot on the gas to start the second half. A Downing screen pass to Tucci on fourth-and-11 went for a 34-yard touchdown, making it 34-0 less than three minutes in.

“We want to get (Tyler) the ball as much as we could, and our tailback screen is a kudos to him and our linemen for executing the play,” Emerson said.

Downing threw his fourth and final touchdown pass to Levi Lawrence with 3:50 left in the third. Downing finished the game 16-of-27 for 215 yards. The Knights only ran the ball 19 times, including kneel-downs to end both halves.

Myatt prevented the shutout on a 1-yard keeper for a touchdown with 20.5 seconds left in the game. Myatt then completed the two-point pass to Andrew Topham.

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Gray-New Gloucester’s Tristan Ward, right, nearly comes up with an interception but Poland’s intended receiver Gawain Tibbetts, left, knocked it away as they fell to the ground during the first half of Friday night’s football game in Poland. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

After powering past several Gray-New Gloucester players, Poland’s Tyler Tucci sheds Andrew Topham and looks downfield as he busts open a big gainer during Friday night’s football game in Poland. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

After powering past several Gray-New Gloucester players, Poland’s Tyler Tucci sheds Andrew Topham and looks downfield as he busts open a big gainer during Friday night’s football game in Poland. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Poland coach Spencer Emerson calls a play during the first half of Friday night’s game against Gray-New Gloucester. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gray-New Gloucester football coach Brian Jahna watches a play from the sidelines during Friday night’s game against Poland. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gray-New Gloucester football coach Brian Jahna calls a timeout during Friday night’s game against Poland. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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