POWNAL — What a difference a year makes.

Last season, coach Paul St. Pierre’s first leading the Freeport High School football team, didn’t go well, including a 36-0 loss at Gray-New Gloucester. That setback was part of an 0-8 season for Freeport.

On Saturday at Pownal Recreation Field, the Falcons returned that loss to the Patriots with a dominating 27-0 win, giving Freeport a 2-1 mark and dropping the visitors to 0-3 on the season.

The Freeport defense held the Patriots to minus-6 yards in the opening half, 21 in the game, and broke open a 7-0 contest with 14 third-quarter points.

For St. Pierre and his coaching staff, it is night and day this year compared to the 2015 season, when low numbers and injuries made for a long campaign.

“You come into practice and the kids have a positive attitude, not, ‘We’re going to get to Saturday and get our butts kicked,’” St. Pierre said. “We are going to fight hard and give ourselves a chance. If we do our jobs, we can win. We have a goal to get to, and the kids are working toward that.”

For Gray-New Gloucester coach Mark Renna and the Patriots, who host Spruce Mountain on Friday, mistakes have haunted his team.

“We make mistakes at the worst time, and you can’t make mistakes,” said Renna, whose Patriots turned the ball over twice in the second half. “It is little things, bad snaps, turnovers. We are going to continue to work on it.”

Momentum changer

Neither team did much on offense in the first quarter, combining for 51 yards. Freeport quarterback Josh Burke accounted for 42 of those on a long run, turning the field around to the Falcons’ favor.

In the second quarter, Freeport drove to the Patriots’ 7-yard line, only to have Gray-NG linebacker Eric Thompson (five tackles) sack Burke on fourth down to turn the ball over on downs.

The first big mistake for the Patriots came on the ensuing possession. Connor Dostie broke through the line and blocked a punt by Boomer Simmons, giving Freeport the ball GNG-12. Two plays later, Burke broke into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 1:57 left until halftime.

“We feed off momentum, and today they fed off the touchdown right before halftime,” said St. Pierre.

“That was one of the biggest momentum swings in this game because we scored and just thought that we had this game, being that we are a second-half team,” said Burke.

Freeport picked up just 78 yards in the opening half, but the defense, led by Burke, TJ Morrill, Dostie and Austin Langley held the Patriots to just one first down.

A fumble recovery on the first play from scrimmage in the second half by Freeport’s Will Gormely gave the Falcons the ball at the Gray-NG 24, and three plays later Burke scored his second touchdown, this time on a 3-yard burst, for a 14-0 edge.

“Gray stuck seven guys in the box and got after it,” said St. Pierre of the Patriots. “We made a few adjustments and began pushing them around.”

Freeport got the ball right back as Morrill recovered an onside kick. The Falcons ate up five minutes of the clock in moving to the Gray-NG 1. But, a lost fumble, recovered by Patriots linebacker Scott Lynch, kept the Falcons from scoring.

However, another costly mistake doomed the visitors, as a bad snap was recovered by Dostie in the end zone. Dostie made up for losing the fumble on the play before, giving the Falcons a 21-0 lead.

“Our attitudes are reflective of our leadership, and we stood up there,” said St. Pierre of Dostie’s score.

The Gray-NG offense continued to struggle. Simmons was a workhorse for the Patriots, carrying the ball 24 times. However, he gained just 28 yards as the Freeport defense continually broke into the backfield to disrupt the Patriots.

Freeport finished things off in the fourth quarter when Burke lofted a 39-yard TD pass to Morrill with 3:42 remaining.

“We showed it by putting up 20 points on them in the second half,” said Burke, who rushed for 42 yards and completed 2-of-8 passes for 58 yards.

Max Doughty led the Falcons with 67 rushing yards on 17 lugs. Burke also had a team-high seven tackles, with Dostie adding six.

Simmons and Jaykob Sanborn each had 10 tackles for Gray-NG, with Simmons adding an interception.

Freeport visits unbeaten Cape Elizabeth on Friday at 7 p.m.

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