Edward Little’s Ricky Cote, left and Sam Lemay, right, break up a pass intended for Sanford’s Leighton Bickford during Friday night’s football game against Sanford at Walton Field in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Leighton Girardin converted on fourth down late in the third quarter before running for a touchdown, then threw a 17-yard touchdown pass on fourth down on Edward Little’s next drive to give the Red Eddies their first lead of Friday’s game at Walton School.

But on the game’s final fourth down, with the Red Eddies trailing by five and just 25 seconds remaining, Girardin couldn’t muster anymore magic and his pass into the end zone was deflected by Xavier Levine to give Sanford the 19-14 Class A North football win.

“Credit to Edward Little, their quarterback played amazing,” Sanford head coach Mike Fallon said. “We tried like heck to keep him pinned in. It was just a good high school football game at the end, and for us to make a goal-line stand was huge.”

Edward Little struggled for most of the game on fourth down, going 0-2 on attempts and committing three penalties. On the other side of the ball, Levine quarterbacked Sanford’s offense through the air and on the ground, combining for 250 yards on the night.

It took Levine and the Sanford offense until late in the first half before Levine threw over the top to 6-foot, 5-inch Leyton Bickford for the game’s first touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

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On Sanford’s first drive of the second half, Levine threw his team into position before the drive was capped with a one-yard touchdown run by James Meggison to make it 13-0.

Edward Little needed an answer, so it turned to the person it has all year — its quarterback.

Girardin combined for 40 total yards on the ground and finished the next drive with a touchdown run to the right as he turned the corner and beat Sanford’s defensive line, something he did multiple times Friday.

“He’s an amazing team leader; he’s one of the most gifted athletes and he gets balls in situations for receivers to make plays,” Edward Little coach Dave Sterling said. “He works so hard at his trade, and I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Trailing 13-7, Edward Little kicked off short to Sanford, which muffed the catch and gave the ball back to EL on its own 38.

The Red Eddies, though, turned it over after failing on a fourth-down attempt. EL’s spirits were lifted almost immediately, as Levine fumbled a snap and the Eddies recovered.

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Girardin then threw a 32-yard pass to Jonathan Knight, who broke a few tackles to advance the Eddies into the red zone. Girardin later found Josh Hamel over the Sanford secondary for a touchdown to give EL a 14-13 lead with 7:07 remaining in the game.

Sanford’s plan from there on was pretty simple: hand the ball to Meggison. He carried the ball six consecutive plays for 53 yards to bring the Spartans to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Levine dropped back to pass but his ankle was grabbed by an Edward Little defender. Levine threw off his back leg and found Carson Bickford in the end zone to put Sanford back up, 19-14.

“It hurt my ankle, the kid twisted my ankle, but I knew I just couldn’t go down,” Levine said. “The team needed it. It was good.”

“Xavier has made a million plays for us. His confidence is growing,” Fallon said. “He’s a kid that didn’t play football two years ago, but we got him back in the program and he is a special athlete and kid. He’s a gamer and he makes unbelievable plays.”

Girardin and company had one more drive to try to earn EL’s third win of the season.

Girardin started the drive with a wild pass and catch by Calen Yarnevich for 26 yards, followed by a 29-yard pass to Knight after the quarterback rolled to his left and evaded a couple defenders. Girardin reached the 10-yard line, but the Eddies couldn’t convert on fourth down.

With 2:25 remaining at the start of the drive, Sterling liked his chances.

“It was pretty routine, because we had 2:25 and we do the two minute drill every day,” Sterling said. “They received it well, they got out of bounds and they had a couple passes that were dropped to win. They made a good play, they tipped a ball. You can’t ask more from an offensive unit to execute and give a chance to win.”

Edward Little’s Jonathan Knight bobbles a pass before reeling it in and heading up the field for a big gain during the first half of Friday night’s football game against Sanford at Walton Field in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)Edward Little quarterback Leighton Girardin passes to Jonathan Knight Friday night’s football game against Sanford at Walton Field in Auburn.(Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)EL coach Dave Sterling, middle, yells instructions to his defense just before Sanford, foreground, snaps the ball during Friday night’s football game against Sanford at Walton Field in Auburn.(Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)Edward Little quarterback Leighton Girardin scampers down the sideline for a big gain after slipping several tackles during Friday night’s football game against Sanford at Walton Field in Auburn.(Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)Sanford’s Carson Bickford, left, breaks up a pass intended for Edward Little’s Caleb Yarnevich during Friday night’s football game against Sanford at Walton Field in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)Edward Little’s Riley Cote, left, nearly intercepts a pass that was jarred loose from Sanford’s Carson Bickford, middle, as he came down with it during Friday night’s game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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