H.S. Football: Ramblers roll into playoffs with 20-8 win

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READFIELD — On this weekend dedicated to high school football rivalries, Winthrop/Monmouth and Maranacook appears to be one of geographical convenience more than intense dislike.

Winthrop and Maranacook students are teammates in hockey and lacrosse. And the gridiron is the only place where you’ll find the Ramblers (or Mustangs) even in the same conference as the Black Bears.

That didn’t make the Ramblers’ 20-8 victory at Ricky Gibson Memorial Field of Dreams any less satisfying for Dustin Tripp and Dakota Carter on Friday night.

Tripp, who lives in Wayne and transferred from Maranacook to Winthrop by superintendents’ agreement a year ago, overcame a recent thumb injury to shine in his first extended action of the year. The junior carried 20 times for 147 yards and a touchdown.

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“The line picked it up after the second half. We just started pounding them,” Tripp said. “I got into a rhythm after my first few carries. I just kept going at it.”

Carter had a sack and forced fumble (all in one, fluid motion) to set up the Ramblers’ first touchdown. The senior wingback and linebacker later caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ingram.

“I scored my first touchdown here (as a freshman), and it’s good to get my last regular-season touchdown here,” Carter said.

Winthrop/Monmouth won its fourth consecutive game (including an exhibition) after starting 0-4 against the league’s heavyweights.

The Ramblers will be no worse than the No. 5 seed when the eight-team Class D West playoffs commence next Friday.

“They’ve been pretty convincing wins, all four of them,” Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “The kids bought in. Some teams you start 0-4 and you don’t know, but these guys had a positive attitude and stuck with it.”

Carter’s dogged pursuit of Isaiah Weston on a blitz spun a scoreless game in the Ramblers’ direction with under three minutes remaining in the first half.

After chasing the sophomore quarterback on a dead sprint toward the Maranacook bench, Carter wrapped his left arm around Weston’s waist while punching out the ball with his right fist. Tyler Gosselin recovered for the Ramblers at the Black Bears’ 38.

“It was a last-minute blitz call that I heard my coach yell at me, so I just took off and was hoping to get him,” Carter said.

Ingram (7-for-15, 85 yards and two scores) hit Mario Meucci for 23 yards to convert an ensuing fourth down. Two illegal procedure penalties threatened to douse the drive, but Ingram located a wide-open Meucci on a post pattern with 19 seconds left for a 19-yard TD and a 6-0 halftime lead.

It was the first of three consecutive Winthrop/Monmouth series to go the distance.

Tripp, Meucci and Zack Phinney shared the work on a 10-play, 79-yard march to open the second half, capped by Ingram’s connection with Carter.

Brendon Dunn’s tackle for a loss and Andrew Pazdziorko’s sack of Kyle Morand highlighted a three-and-out for the Winthrop defense. The Ramblers’ subsequent march started at midfield and was mostly the Tripp show, with runs of 8, 11 and 8 yards setting up short bursts of 5 and 2 yards into the end zone.

“We didn’t come out how we should have,” Tripp said. “Next time we will.”

Tyler Cote, backing up an injured Meucci, booted both extra points.

Winthrop/Monmouth held Maranacook (3-4) to 30 yards in the second half and 128 overall.

The Black Bears, who will enter the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and play on the road next week, got on the board with 10:26 to go on an 11-yard strike from Morand to Luke Emery. Josh Ehriorobo, one of only four Maranacook seniors playing in his final home game, set it up with a fumble recovery.

koakes@sunjournal.com

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