PORTLAND — Less than a dozen plays into Saturday’s matinee at Cheverus, Edward Little had dug itself a 14-point hole with turnovers on its first two possessions. The game was shaping up to be a carbon copy of blowouts the Red Eddies have suffered at Boulos Stadium in recent years.
The Eddies continued to make the case that this is a different team and a different season, though, right down to their final possession.
Grant Hartley found Maxx Bell on a 46-yard pass, then ran it in from a yard out for the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds remaining as Edward Little rallied from a 20-7 deficit to defeat Cheverus, 26-20, and improve to 3-0.
“Coming into Cheverus, it seems like we’re already down 14-0,” Bell said. “We just didn’t give up. We still had the focus the whole game.”
“It’s a new look for the Red Eddies,” he added.
On second-and-14 from midfield, Hartley lofted the pass to Bell as he got behind the secondary and made a fingertip catch near the right sideline before being tackled from behind at the 4.
“I’ve got to try and throw it towards the sideline so only he can catch it,” Hartley said. “We repped it out in practice and finally it came together on that play. I don’t think it could have gone much better than that.”
Caden Begos carried to the 1 on first down, then Hartley called his own number and followed the left side of the line into the end zone.
Cheverus blocked the PAT, then took over at its own 30 with 25.2 seconds left. Perrin Conant’s pass got the Stags to their own 45. After an intentional spike to stop the clock with 9.8 seconds left, Conant threw an incompletion on second down.
Conant’s Hail Mary on third down also fell incomplete as the final horn sounded, but the Red Eddies were flagged for pass interference several seconds into their celebration. That gave the Stags an untimed down from EL’s 45, but Conant’s heave intended for Akera Oryem fell to the ground short and incomplete to set off a second, and final, EL celebration.
“We just kept working,” EL coach Dave Sterling said. “Our defense worked its way back into the game. I can’t talk about how much of a team effort this was.”
Cheverus appeared to have the upperhand early and late on a hot and humid afternoon.
On the first play from scrimmage, Sean Sullivan recovered a Caden Begos fumble at EL’s 32. The Eddies withstood that turnover thanks to Bell’s sack on third-and-9, but quickly gave the ball back when Finn Cawley intercepted Hartley (7-for-19, 83 yards, TD, two interceptions, two rushing touchdowns) and returned it to the Eddies’ 24.
Three plays later, Max Coffin (24 carries, 115 yards) ran it in from 16 yards out for a 7-0 Cheverus lead.
Two plays into EL’s next possession, Coffin picked off a Hartley pass at the 38 and took it all the way back for a 14-0 lead.
EL got the momentum shift it needed when Justin Theriault pounced on a fumbled snap at the Stags’ 9. Two plays later, Hartley powered it in from the 3 to cut the deficit in half.
Cheverus needed just one play to change that, however, as Conant rolled right and found a wide open Sean Tompkins for a 52-yard touchdown. The Eddies blocked the extra point to keep it 20-7 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
“As soon as we got in that situation, we knew we had to bounce back,” Sterling said. “We knew when we’re going on the road, things are going to get stacked against us. We’ve just got to play harder, and we’ve got the type of offense that can try and get us back in the game.”
Despite struggling to move the ball much of the day (only five first downs in the game), the Eddies’ offense made plays in the second quarter, thanks to some sleight of hand.
Hartley handed off to a motioning Bell, who dropped back and lobbed a pass over a leaping Oryem and into the hands of Terrell Thomas for a 37-yard touchdown to make it 20-14.
“We’ve been working on that all summer and we had it in the bag,” Bell said. “I knew Terrell was going to be open. I was like, ‘There’s no way they’ll see this coming.'”
The Eddies tied it on their next possession when, on fourth-and-6 from Cheverus’ 7, Hartley rolled left and found Bell near the left sideline in the end zone with 27.4 seconds to go in the half. Gavin Callahan blocked the PAT to keep it tied at intermission.
In the third quarter, both teams returned to the turnover theme of the first quarter, except neither offense was able to capitalize. Thomas and Sullivan had strip sacks on back-to-back possessions near midfield. EL also recovered a fumbled punt at its own 42, but ended up going three-and-out.
Backed up to their own 5 by the Eddies’ ensuing punt, the Stags went on a 17-play drive that burned nearly nine minutes off the clock before electing to punt on fourth-and-6 from EL’s 27.
“They were just a couple plays better today than we were,” Cheverus coach Mike Vance said. “They gave us an easy one and we gave them a couple of easy ones, and I think that was the difference.”