POLAND — For the first time in program history, Poland Regional High School football played its regular-season finale knowing it still had at least one game remaining on its schedule.
That’s because the Knights entered Friday’s Battle of Shaker Hill against Gray-New Gloucester having assured themselves a spot in the Class C West playoffs. That didn’t stop them from roughing up their rival.
Playing in their final regular season game in a Poland uniform, seniors Adam Mocciola, Will Bernier and Nick Cote rushed for 326 of the Knights’ 393 yards in a 55-12 victory over the Patriots. The 55 points scored set a new season-best, surpassing the 42-point mark they hit twice earlier in the year.
“It was huge just to get back on track,” Poland coach Ted Tibbetts said. “We haven’t played to our potential in the past and this was a good opportunity for the kids to play sharp. They played hard tonight and played really well.”
The Knights (3-5) snapped a four-game losing streak in which they had been outscored 189-56. Poland began the day in a four-way tie for the No. 6 seed and would grab the sixth seed outright if both Mountain Valley and Freeport lose tomorrow.
Poland took advantage of good field position to grab a 13-0 after one quarter. The Knights’ first three drives started inside Patriots territory. They scored on their final two after fumbling on the 2-yard line on their first possession.
Bernier started what would become a big day for the senior fullback with a 1-yard touchdown up the middle mid way through the first quarter. Three minutes later, Mocciola kept it himself and ran it in from 10 yards out.
“Anytime you run the option, it’s tough to defend,” Gray-NG coach Mark Renna said. “Poland runs it very well. They’re very well-coached. They’re disciplined. We weren’t disciplined tonight at all. We schemed for it, but you just want to bite for the fullback. Our defense bit for the fullback and the quarterback popped it out. He’s one of the better athletes in the league. Poland came out fired up. They’re way better than their record.”
Bernier rushed for 177 yards on 17 carries in the first half, 59 coming on a his second touchdown run of the game. Bernier hit a wall at the line before bouncing it outside and outrunning the Gray-NG defense up the left sideline as Poland grabbed a 21-0 lead 33 seconds into the second quarter.
“We were phenomenal,” Bernier said. “The line was sticking their blocks. We had blocking on the outside, which is key. We did really well on the blocking.”
Bernier finished with 211 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. He was stopped in the backfield only once.
“Will did a great job,” Tibbetts said. “He hasn’t really played their before and the work he put in during the offseason makes him fast. It’s great to have him in that position.”
Mocciola matched him with three rushing touchdowns as well. He didn’t toss a pass in the second half after going 4-for-6 for 36 yards in the first 24 minutes.
The final minute of the first half and opening minute of the second belonged to Cote. He scored on a 4-yard run with 22 seconds remaining in the first half to give Poland a 28-6 lead and intercepted Gray-NG quarterback Zack Haskell on the next play from scrimmage.
“It was just instinct,” Cote said. “I had one last week, too. Coach has been on my all year, because this is my first year playing safety, to get interceptions. I’ve been getting them in practice, but kind of not doing my job the rest of the season, but the last few games I’ve been doing a good job.”
Cote returned the second half kickoff down to the Gray-NG 21 and scored on the next play. He intercepted Haskell again in the third quarter and returned it for a touchdown, but it was called back on a roughing-the-passer penalty.
The Patriots (0-8) did most of their damage through the air. Haskell completed eight passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Haskell hit Kyle Keenan for four yards and Andrew Ellingson for 24 on his touchdown throws.
Gray-NG had more turnovers (5) than first downs (4). The Patriots rushed for just 13 yards on 20 carries.