LEWISTON — One of the last major decisions Bill County made as a football coach proved to be a good one Saturday night.
After his Lewiston football team rallied to get within a point late in the fourth quarter against rival Edward Little, County had tough choice — go for the tie or go for the win.
“When you’re 0-7, I’m thinking, ‘Do we go for the kick and a chance to tie it on something we don’t do well or go for the win and see what happens?'”
County, who announced that he would retire after this season, went for broke in his last game. It paid off as quarterback Jared Rubin hit Quintarian Brown in the end zone on a short conversion pass. After a defensive stop, Lewiston secured the 20-19 win, sending County out in memorable fashion.
“That one was definitely for County,” senior back Stone Colby said. “It was his last game. It was a rough season. We wanted to finish it off strong for him.”
After a trophy presentation at midfield, County gathered his team together and simply said, “Thank you.” His players and coaching staff all responded with a “Thank you” of their own.
“It’s great to beat our rival from across the bridge,” Rubin said. “Both teams played great. It was great to send Coach off with a win.”
EL took a 19-12 lead with 8:42 left in the game. The Red Eddies (1-7) produced a pair of lengthy drives in the second half that extended a 7-6 halftime lead. A two-yard run by quarterback Matt Verrill made it 19-12.
Lewiston’s next possession got a spark with the return of Brown, who had missed time with an injury. He finished with 116 yards on 13 carries. He had a 19-yard run and so did Ace Curry. The Blue Devils were on the move and later converted a four-and-one at the 10 when Colby burrowed up the middle for some hard yards.
“Stone is an unsung hero on this team,” County said. “He’s the heart and soul of this club. On fourth down, I kept going to him.”
Colby kept driving the ball forward on two more runs for tough yards. EL’s defense was solid. Then Brown got it to the 2 and took it in from there with a burst through the line with 3:54 left.
Down 19-18, County was left with a significant decision.
“We’ve had problems with PAT’s all year,” County said. “When we got the third one, I was thinking we’d get the tee and we’d kick it. Then we went with a play that we scored on a PAT three or four games ago. He was open, we scored and we won.”
Rubin took the snap and moved a little to his right. Brown had a man on him, but Rubin got him a catch-able ball for the score.
“I was really excited but I was really nervous at the same time,” Rubin said. “I had trust in the line and in the receivers catching the ball.”
EL still had a chance, getting a return from Dustin Wyman that set them up at its own 44. EL went to Hunter Martin on a pair of carries but he couldn’t get far. Lewiston’s defense was energized and swarming the ball.
“We really came together,” Colby said. “We all rallied together.”
Verrill tried to take off on third down but got tripped up by Julian Smedley. Then on fourth down, Martin rushed to the outside left but couldn’t get around the edge of a swarming defense. He was stopped for no gain. Martin finished with 180 yards on 27 carries.
“They got the ball out to the 50,” County said. “I don’t think we had proven we could stop them. Our kids rose to the occasion and got it done. That was awesome.”
EL got the ball back in the final seconds but were at their own 10. An interception by Curry sealed it.
Lewiston had taken a 6-0 lead with 1:22 left in the first when Brown burst free for a 53-yard run. EL went ahead with 9:47 left in the half. Verrill capped off a drive with a run up the middle from the 8. Then Charles Cedre kicked the extra point for the 7-6 lead.
EL opened the second half with a lengthy drive that ate up much of the quarter. Verrill finished it off from the 1 with 4:27 left in the third for a 13-6 lead. Lewiston came back on its next possession with a nice drive of its own. Colby scored from the 8 to finished the third quarter down 13-12. Lewiston nearly tied it on the PAT but Curry was taken down at the goal line.
“I was really proud of that,” County said. “In the second half, we had a little bit of rhythm in our offense.”
County was surrounded by his team one last time after the win. They took a team photo and celebrated the victory.
“You could have won by 40 and made it a lot easier,” County told them. “But it wouldn’t have been as fun.”