FARMINGTON — A sick feeling came over Jordan Whitney an instant after he released his pass to Cam Sennick late in the first half of Friday night’s Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinal with Gardiner.

The feeling got worse as the pass flew the 11 yards towards the end zone where Sennick awaited. Standing between Sennick and the pigskin was Alonzo Connor, Gardiner’s speedy defensive back/tailback, who had a bead on the ball and over 100 yards of green grass in front of him.

Connor got two hands on the ball, but not around it, and it deflected into the waiting arms of a stunned Sennick, whose catch put the Cougars in front for good with under a minute left in the half.

Whitney threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two more to lead No. 2 Mt. Blue to a 35-14 win over No. 3 Gardiner at frosty Kemp Field. The Cougars will face No. 1 Leavitt, the two-time defending conference champion, for the regional title next weekend.

“(When the pass went up), I was like, ‘Oh-oh. Oh-oh,’ and then, ‘Oh, luck’s on my side,'” said Whitney, who also picked off a pass on defense.

“Sometimes you’ve got to have a little luck,” Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin said. “If he catches that, and that’s ’27’ (Connor’s number) right there, I don’t know who’s going to catch him. Maybe Cam could, but I don’t know who else could.”

The touchdown not only gave Mt. Blue the lead for good, it stole away the Tigers’ momentum after they had rallied from an early 14-0 deficit. So did Whitney’s interception at Mt. Blue’s 4 when Gardiner was threatening to tie it up again on the opening drive of the second half.

“It was Cover 2. I just played it right and got a pick,” Whitney said.

After the pick, the Cougars (9-1) marched 96 yards in eight plays to take a 27-14 lead. The big play on the drive was a 33-yard jump ball that Nick Hilton hauled in on 3rd and 6. After a 20-yard run by Chad Luker (nine rushes, 94 yards, TD), Whitney sidestepped a tackler at the line of scrimmage and ran it in from three yards out with 2:28 left in the third.

Any comeback hopes for the Tigers were dashed by an ejection and an injury. Lineman Justin Pottle was ejected for a personal foul late in the third quarter. QB Dennis Meehan, who was effective both in the air (9-for-22, 98 yards) and on the ground (12 rushes, 66 yards, TD), had to leave the game midway through the fourth quarter with an apparent head injury and did not return. The Tigers also lost defensive lineman Eddie Donnell to an injury in the first half.

Luker, who had all of his carries in the second half, added a 9-yard touchdown for the final score.

“They came out and just ran I-(formation) football and they ran power football and they ran well,” Gardiner coach Matt Burgess said.

An injury hampered Gardiner in the regular season meeting between the two teams, which Mt. Blue won, 43-26. Connor was sidelined with an elbow injury in the first half, but the Tigers didn’t hesitate to go to him almost exclusively on their first drive Friday night. It worked for a time, but they were forced to try a field goal after Shawn Keach stopped Connor for a 3-yard loss on 3rd and 4. Chris Cautillo blocked Meehan’s 35-yard attempt to keep the game scoreless.

The Cougars took over at their own 31 and marched down the field in 11 plays, with Whitney running up the gut from five yards out to make it 7-0 after Keach’s PAT. They doubled the lead on their next drive when Whitney fired a dart down the left sideline to Izaiha Tracy (13 rushes, 85 yards) for a 14-yard touchdown two minutes into the second quarter.

Gardiner (7-3) opened up the passing game to start its ensuing possession, then got inside the 1 on Connor’s 20-yard run. Meehan punched it in from there to make it 14-6.

Tracy fumbled on the Cougars’ next play from scrimmage, and Meehan threw a 21-yard pass to Justin Lovely to set up Connor’s 2-yard touchdown run. Meehan’s two-point pass to Matt Hall tied it at 14-14 with 4:06 left in the half.

Mt. Blue lost all-conference lineman Dustin Zamboni to an apparent knee injury on the second play of the second half.


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