Cheverus High School’s Akera Oryem (4) loses the ball as he stumbles to the ground in front of Lewiston High School’s Tom Brochu (64) and Jaheim Whiting (7) during their game on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Friday.

LEWISTON — Lewiston got the break it was hoping for late in Friday night’s game against Cheverus when the football flew out of the arms of Stags running back Max Coffin and into the arms of Blue Devils safety Tanner Cortes, who returned it to Stags territory to set up a possible game-winning drive.

But momentum was fleeting for the Devils, as it had been all night. Cortes, the Blue Devils’ quarterback who had thrown for two touchdowns, was shaken up on the play. Cheverus’ defense held, then the offense burned the remaining clock to secure a big 20-14 win at Bates College’s Garcelon Field.

Both teams are now 3-3, but the win gave the Stags some much-needed Heal points to jump into a muddled Class A North playoff picture.

“We won that game with grit,” Cheverus senior two-way lineman Zeb Leavitt said.

“It’s tough on the kids. It’s tough on the coaches, but we’ve just got to grow from this and move on,” said Lewiston coach Bruce Nicholas, whose team travels to Portland next Friday. “We’ll see teams like this in the playoffs. We know we can play with them. We’ve got to polish up some things at first.”

Cortes returned the fumble 49 yards to the Cheverus 40 with 3:01 left, but remained on the sideline while backup quarterback Brock Belanger took over for the final drive.

“Tanner got rocked on the sideline on that fumble return and I said there’s no way he can go back out there, at least for a couple of minutes,” Nicholas said. “Brock can make plays.”

Belanger, who started last year and also one game earlier this season at QB, completed a short pass to Jeremy Madore and had back-to-back runs to the 32 to set up 4th-and-2. Running back Garrett Poussard appeared to get the first down on the next play, but the play was negated by an illegal motion penalty, Lewiston’s ninth flag of the night.

Cheverus broke up a Belanger pass intended for Hunter Landry on fourth down, then killed the final 2:20 behind its workhorse back, Coffin (33 carries, 143 yards, one TD).

Lewiston enjoyed good starting field position for much of the night, but hurt itself with 65 yards in penalties. The Stags also made the going tougher with strong run defense (59 yards on 32 attempts) and a relentless pass rush.

“We’re a stable defensive unit all the way around,” Leavitt said. “We’ve got some young guys up front, but the key to it was we stayed low, we stayed square and we beat them with our physicality up front.”

Cheverus fumbled the game’s first punt after forcing a three-and-out on Lewiston’s opening series, but a delay of game penalty and a Sean Tompkins sack set a frustrating tone for the Blue Devil offense.

After fielding the second punt cleanly, the Stags converted their first possession into a 10-play, 78-yard scoring drive capped by Coffin’s 25-yard TD run up the middle.

Lewiston tied it with 7:37 left in the half when Cortes (8-for-16, 181 yards, two TDs, one interception) rolled out left to avoid pressure and threw to Landry, who ran back towards the right sideline, turned the corner and beat one last Stag to the end zone.

The Stags grabbed the lead right back with a big pass play of their own, a 34-yard connection from Perrin Conant to Tompkins to make it 14-7. That’s how it stood at halftime after the Devils were unable to capitalize after Poussard’s 45-yard kick return had them starting at Cheverus’ 43.

“We’re trying to learn how to finish off drives,” Nicholas said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot a little too much.”

Tompkins made it a two-score game by taking the opening kickoff of the second half 84 yards for a 20-7 lead.

“For Tompkins to get that, I mean, that’s one heck of a way to set a tone,” Leavitt said. “We’ve had that happen to us. We know the downside of that. But having that really boosted our confidence.”

Lewiston answered with another big pass play, this one for 52 yards. Jason Willis (four catches, 100 yards) made a leaping grab of a Cortes pass, shook off a tackler and raced down the right sideline to pull within six points.

The Blue Devils’ next two drives crossed into Cheverus territory but stalled before they reached the red zone.

Cheverus High School’s Sean Tompkins (82) eludes Lewiston High School defenders Hunter Landry (21) and Jackson Boswell (55) during their game on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Friday.Cheverus High School’s Max Coffin, right, makes a move to get around Lewiston High School’s Sean O’Donnell during their game on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Friday.

Lewiston High School’s Jason Willis (15) can’t reach a pass behind Cheverus defender Akera Oryem during their game on Garcelon Field at Bates College in Lewiston on Friday.

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