Let Deering score.
Down by one point, burning up the second of his three chances to stop the clock, County knew it was the right, if desperate call. Even if the quizzical looks required him to be more of a salesman than a teacher.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my career. I told the kids you can’t lay down, because they might take a knee. You’ve got to at least chase him,” County said. “And it worked, and we blocked the extra point and we got our four plays, but we couldn’t do anything.”
Kahlil Brown’s almost-uncontested 20-yard touchdown run with 2:03 remaining ultimately clinched Deering’s 29-22 Class A East win at Don Roux Field, a verdict that left winless Lewiston with flickering-at-best playoff hopes.
Missing six starters, Deering (2-3) moved 6-foot, 225-pound guard Brown to halfback two weeks ago. The switch reaped 20 carries for 123 yards.
Max Chabot also threw three touchdowns for the Rams, who never trailed.
“We’ve been pretty balanced all year long, actually. We’re probably a 50-50 team, run to pass. Maybe a little more with the pass, but tonight we felt we could run the ball, and we did,” Deering coach Matt Riddell said. “Kahlil Brown has been bugging me for two years that he was a running back, so we gave him a shot and boy, he did a good job.”
Deering lost its top two projected halfbacks, Camille Kirongozi and Scotty Bresette, in the first week of the season.
Brown shared the load with Ben Williams (seven carries for 65 yards) and Robbie Dacey (12 for 42).
“That was a fight to get back into that spot. Freshman year we were deep at the running back position,” Brown said. “Our line and our receivers did a really good job. I could not have done what I did tonight without them.”
Lewiston also received a jump start from the return of its splendid back, Quintarian Brown, who missed the past three games with an ankle injury.
Although he sat out big chunks of the second half due to cramps, Brown finished with 97 all-purpose yards and all three Devils touchdowns. Stone Colby carried 15 times for a team-high 94 rushing yards.
“We came out the second half and scored first, and I felt like we had the fullback thing going with Stone, and Q’s special when he’s healthy,” County said. “We were better offensively.”
But Lewiston couldn’t stop the Deering offense — when it was sincerely trying — the two times that mattered most.
Brown ran 12 yards for a score and caught the two-point conversion pass from Jared Rubin, cutting Deering’s lead to 9-8 with 1:59 left in the first half.
Running a series of quick-outs down its own sideline, Deering moved the ball downfield in four- and five-yard, clock-stopping chunks.
Chabot was 6-for-9 for 55 yards on the drive. When he finally did go over the top, he found Jacob Coon in man coverage for a 33-yard score.
“Jacob Coon’s got a broken finger. He’s got a cast on it,” Riddell said. “We checked that play off and went right to it, and it was kind of nice.”
Coon, who banged home a 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter, kicked the extra point for a 16-8 halftime lead.
Lewiston couldn’t convert on a long kick return by Sheon James to start the second half, but Sabin Lavorgna’s punt pinned Deering at the 1.
The Devils made the most of that field position on their next short drive, punctuated by Brown’s 4-yard TD run. Patrick Viola batted down the potential tying two-point conversion toss.
Williams’ second takeaway of the night, a fumble recovery at midfield, set up a crucial Deering drive.
Brown and Chabot each moved the chains. Lewiston couldn’t take advantage of Lavorgna’s sack of Chabot deep in Devils’ territory, as Chabot and Bernard hooked up for their second score of the night, a 19-yarder, on the next play. Coon’s kick made it a two-possession game.
Lewiston crept within 23-22 on Brown’s third TD (3 yards) and a pass from Rubin to Curry with 9:47 to go.
The Devils then force a punt and drove to the Deering 32, but a holding penalty killed the momentum. Rubin and Brown’s hookup fell well short of the marker on fourth down.
“That was the turning point,” County said. “Up until that point we had found a little bit of a groove and I thought we could score. Then with second-and-20 without Quintarian in the game, I didn’t have a play.”
Williams also intercepted a pass in the shadow of the goal line in the first half. His apparent 96-yard return for a touchdown was wiped out by an illegal block in the back.
“Our defense wasn’t great tonight, but we were good when we needed to be. That was the turning point. We can’t let up 22 points and expect to win,” Williams said. “We just want that home playoff game for our fans. Last year was horrible.”
Lewiston likely to needs to win its final three games — at least two of them — to earn a playoff spot. The Devils will be a heavy underdog the next two weeks at Bangor and at Portland.
“We’ve got to do something spectacular,” County said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to think we’re going to go to Bangor or Portland and get a win, but we’ve got to do something that’s unexpected. We’ve got to go up there and throw caution to the wind.”