POLAND — Dirigo’s offense seemed to be moving backwards every time it stepped onto the field for Friday night’s Campbell Conference clash with Poland. So its defense started finding ways to make it feel guilty for making its job more difficult.

Two fourth-quarter stops in Poland territory gave the offense a short field. As the Knights found out the hard way, Dirigo running backs Tyler Frost and Spencer Trenoweth are tough to stop when they can smell the end zone.

Frost’s 31-yard touchdown gave the Cougars the lead on the final play of the third quarter and Trenoweth’s 13-yard TD reception from Brett Whittemore sealed a 22-14 win, their third comeback win this season.

“We knew we could stop them. We just had to do it,” senior linebacker Nelson Pepin said. “We just had to have confidence in ourselves.”

After giving up 126 yards rushing yards to Poland QB Tony Whalen in the first half, Dirigo limited Poland’s triple-option offense to 48 yards in the second half to rally from a 14-8 halftime deficit.

“The kids came in at halftime and said we need to make a little adjustment and we said, ‘Okay, let’s move outside a little bit and bull rush those guards,'” Dirigo coach Dave Crutchfield said. “Their quarterback is so sneaky. You can’t see the ball.”

Dirigo had its first two drives of the second half stall in the red zone. Poland halted the second foray with a stop of Frost on 4th and 2 at its own 17. But a holding penalty kept the Knights (0-3) from improving their field position, and a 14-yard punt set the Cougars up at the Poland 31 with five seconds left in the third.

Frost, a sophomore fullback playing his first game since injuring his ankle in the preseason, bulled his way through several tacklers and broke the plane of the end zone with one on his back. Heath Hersom’s two-point run gave Dirigo its first lead at 16-14.

“The left side opened up a great hole for me to slip through,” Frost said. “I just kept my head down and was trying to chug to get yards for the team. A couple linemen came back and took (some tacklers) off of me, so that made it a little easier.”

Dirigo’s second defensive stand came on 4th-and-2 at Poland’s 28 with a little over 5 ½ minutes remaining and the Knights trailing 16-14. Fullback Tyler Sturtevant chased down a bobbled snap but his pass under heavy pressure fell incomplete.

“We just continue at critical times to make those mistakes,” said Poland coach Ted Tibbetts. “I liked the chances with our offense more. Our defense was getting tired. If the ball hadn’t gone between our legs, I think we would have had a pretty good shot. There’s a seam there and Tony’s pretty good in finding seams.”

The Cougars (3-0) had better success on their subsequent fourth down attempt, a 4th and 6 at Poland’s 13. Whittemore rolled out left, threw across his body to the flat to Trenoweth as he headed for the pylon for the eight-point lead.

“He can get open. When he gets open, he gets the ball, every time,” said Whittemore, who finished 5 for 15 for 87 yards.

Nick Young clinched it with an interception at midfield with 54 seconds left, his second interception of the game.

Dirigo overcame 10 penalties for 95 yards, a fumbled kickoff return and a few dropped passes. Trenoweth finished with 131 yards on 12 carries, including a 56-yard touchdown that tied the game 8-8 on the first play of the second quarter.

“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot offensively,” Crutchfield said. “It’s hard to call a game when you’ve got 2nd and 25.”

Sturtevant’s 23-yard touchdown run and a two-point pass from Whalen to Austin Davis after a bad snap on the extra point attempt gave the Knights  an early 8-0 lead.

Isaac Stone blocked a Dirigo punt at the Cougars’ 8 to set up the Knights’ go-ahead score, a four-yard run by Whalen (22 carries, 175 yards) with 6:46 left in the first half.


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