LIVERMORE FALLS - It’s a picture that the few opponents tough enough to hang with the Winthrop High School football team an entire night are going to see frequently as the grass turns to mud this fall.
Ryan Conant and Derek Pamphrey united in a chest-bumping, head-slapping embrace on the Ramblers sideline Friday. Each was stained with dirt and grass from collar to hem. Both likely wore a few new bruises that will require an ice pack or two this weekend.
Their celebration was the exclamation point to a job well done. Together, they controlled time of possession and made the chain gang earn its keep in Winthrop’s 13-0 shutout of Livermore Falls.
Conant chalked up 189 yards. Pamphrey pounded out 134 more. Carries? Twenty-two apiece, almost never back-to-back.
“You can game plan against it all you want, but the reality is when you have two backs that run that hard every other play, it’s going to wear teams down,” said Winthrop coach Joel Stoneton. “They’re both fast. They both cut differently.”
The only thing neither of the seniors did was reach the end zone, mostly because a combination of penalties, bad snaps and quarterback sacks iced three different Winthrop sojourns inside the 20-yard line.
Senior quarterback Travis Luce was responsible for both Winthrop scores, one on the beginning drive of each half.
Luce capped the Ramblers’ opening series with a 1-yard sneak. In the third quarter, after a false start penalty on third-and-1 threatened to kill another Winthrop march, Luce connected with Joey Brennan for a 27-yard touchdown.
“We definitely showed some weakness in some points,” said Conant. “We weren’t crisp. We weren’t executing. I think it gave us something to work on. We’ve got to finish drives.”
Winthrop (4-0) averaged more than 50 points per game in previous wins over Madison, Dirigo and Sacopee Valley.
Much of the credit must go to Livermore Falls (2-2), whose senior-dominated line more than met the challenge of the preseason Western Class C favorite on both sides of the ball.
“Not bad,” Livermore Falls assistant coach Brian Dube said. “We just needed to finish a couple drives.”
Livermore Falls twice ventured deep into Winthrop territory, as well.
The Andies’ first threat ended in a goal-line stand when Conant grabbed Brent Buote by the ankle at the 2 with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter. Livermore Falls could have picked up the first down without reaching the end zone.
“That’s what we needed right there,” Pamphrey said. “That was a big relief.”
In the fourth period, a bad snap on a punt gave the Andies a puncher’s chance at the Winthrop 20 with 3:25 left.
Travis Sherman and Zack Barter stopped Tommy Lee for no gain on first down, and Sherman sacked Nate Hamblin on the next play.
After a procedure penalty against the Andies, Sherman and Barter again collaborated to smother Alex Rose. Barter recovered the resulting fumble.
“Our starters have only given up a special teams touchdown,” Stoneton said. “We just told those guys that’s their fourth shutout, and that’s what they feel like. We like to be physical, to be able to take the brakes off and play varsity football. Those guys tested us. That could have gone either way.”
Sheer numbers favored Winthrop by a bunch, including first downs (22 to 5) and total yards (363 to 107).
Josh Seekins, Travis Sherman, Hunter Sherman, Conant, Brennan and Pamphrey were the big hitters for the Winthrop defense, which limited Livermore Falls to one first down until midway through the third quarter.
“They were a lot tougher than I think we expected. They run hard. They execute their plan,” Conant said. “We needed to see our weaknesses. It was mostly mental things, I think.”
Lee led Livermore Falls with 12 carries for 49 yards. Rose added 12 for 40. Lee sacked Luce twice to fuel the defense.