WELLS — Nobody who watched Friday’s first half at Warrior Memorial Field, during which yards were gobbled up in Arena Football-ish quantities, would have expected three sacks, two interceptions and a goal-line stand to settle the issue.
That was the case, though, and all the above belonged to reigning Class C champion Leavitt, which rallied for a thrilling 26-19 victory over Wells.
Billy Bedard knocked down Nate Booth’s pass to Reid Chase in the end zone with 21 seconds left to seal the win for the Hornets, who rallied from deficits of 13-0 and 19-6.
“We’re a second-half team,” said Chandler Lajoie, whose interception deep in Wells territory set up a late insurance touchdown by Levi Craig. “We stepped up and did what we had to do to finish.
Winners of six consecutive games, Leavitt (6-1) will host Spruce Mountain (7-0) next Friday night. It’s a repeat of last season, with the records reversed and the Class C West regular season title and No. 1 playoff seed once again on the line.
Taylor Woodbury sacked Booth twice and Adam Smith corralled him another time. Max Green had both an interception and a 40-yard touchdown catch for the Hornets.
Shredded for 188 yards on the ground in the first half, Leavitt held Wells (5-2) to a net minus-two after intermission.
Still, the Warriors almost swiped it away with a late-game gamble.
Lajoie started the sequence with his pick, protecting Leavitt’s 20-19 lead at the Wells 17.
“I was kind of just reading it as I go,” Lajoie said. “I saw him step up to throw it to the middle. I got the job done and finished.”
On Leavitt’s second play of that series, Wells instructed its defense to let Craig score on a quarterback keeper. The junior hesitated briefly before trotting into the end zone with 1:37 left.
Wells still needed to stop the two-point conversion to stay alive, which it did when Riley Dempsey knocked down Craig’s pass intended for Green.
The Warriors took over at their own 40 and used two long completions to nearly cover the distance. Booth found Chris Carney for 29 yards on the first play. Then, after an incomplete pass and the Smith sack, he hit Chase over the middle on third-and-17 for 33 yards to the Leavitt 5.
Booth spiked the ball to stop the clock before Carney (17 carries, 146 yards, two TDs) slipped in front of Bedard for a one-yard loss. Another snap-and-spike set up the last-chance play, snuffed out by Bedard.
“We had an opportunity. Two great catches on the ball, and we just didn’t get it in. Chris slips and maybe if it’s a dry field, I don’t know. Ifs and buts, right?” Wells coach Tim Roche said. “I just told them it’s not celebrating in October that we want to do, it’s celebrating in November. If we can learn from what happened here and correct our mistakes, we played well. We had our chances.”
Wells was up 13-0 before Leavitt had a chance to catch its breath.
Carney returned the opening kickoff 45 yards, then took Wells to the house himself with runs of 14 and 18 yards, followed by 10 yards for the score. Ryan Marsh kicked the extra point.
Booth intercepted Craig at the Wells 5 to stifle a Leavitt threat. The Warriors subsequently went from end-to-end with authority – 66 yards by fullback Mike Curtis, 22 by Carney, and 7 on Booth keeper to cap it.
“I think Wells played well. They’re physical. They were blocking well,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “We made a few defensive adjustments in the second half, and it helped a little bit. It’s tough stopping 9 (Carney) and 44 (Curtis), but I thought we did a better job on 9 in the second half.”
Leavitt went to power football to score a necessary touchdown with 4:43 remaining in the first half. Julian Kirouac capped the 13-play, 68-yard drive with a 3-yard plunge.
Wells answered with another long march, the key play a 27-yarder from Booth to Marsh, punctuated by Carney’s 9-yard sweep with 56 seconds to go.
That was just enough time for Leavitt to get back in it. Craig competed back-to-back bombs of 28 yards to Bedard on the left sideline and 40 to Green on a post pattern for six and a 19-12 halftime deficit.
The teams combined for 435 first-half yards, and only 139 after the break.
“We just had to get the tempo up, get the momentum going,” Woodbury said. “Just playing the game, you know? Not opening our eyes too much.”
Leavitt showed a six-man front, slanting its ends to stop Wells at the point of attack and staying home on counter plays.
Isaiah Calder made the play to set up the go-ahead touchdown, tackling punter Marsh for a 30-yard loss after the snap sailed over his head.
Leavitt took over at the Wells 32 and scored in six consecutive running plays by Craig, Bedard and backup tailback Hunter Sirois.
Bedard bounced in from 6 yards out. After Wells was called for pass interference on the first two-point try, Bedard rushed for the deuce and a 20-19 edge.
Wells was victimized by 17 penalties. Leavitt was whistled for nine.
“That’s not what high school football is about, I’ll just say that,” Roche said.
From there, it was in the hands of the Hornets’ defense, which hadn’t been tested much in recent weeks.
“They can run the football, and I think people probably thought that was our weakness was defending the run, so it was good to see kids make the adjustments, come around, play a little bit more physical and tackle a little better in the second half,” Hathaway said.