Josh Kaiser of Edward Little High School grabs a Lewiston fumble out of midair before racing 33 yards to the endzone to put the Eddies up 6-0 during the first quarter on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Edward Little and Lewiston put on such a good show for the 176th Battle of the Bridge, it’s a good thing the teams have a week to try to top it in the 177th.

Leighton Girardin’s 38-yard touchdown run with 52.4 seconds remaining gave Edward Little a thrilling 26-22 victory over Lewiston.

Girardin, who Lewiston had contained for much of the night (20 carries, 76 yards), burst up the middle and slipped three potential tacklers on his way to the end zone.

“I don’t think I’ve ever run faster in my whole life,” said Girardin, a senior quarterback. “I saw the whole game right in front of me. Whatever I did, I couldn’t make a mistake. The game would have been gone. If I made the most out of the play, the game would be ours.”

Edward Little (4-4) earned home field for next week’s Class A North first-round playoff game against No. 5 Lewiston (2-6). The first playoff game between the rivals since 2008 is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. next Saturday.

EL regained the Alan Clark Sr. Memorial Trophy as the victor, but still trails Lewiston in the all-time series, 93-71-12.

Girardin redeemed himself after he couldn’t recover a bad snap at Lewiston’s 45. It was instead recovered by Deon Hunt, setting up the Blue Devils’ go-ahead drive. Hunter Landry ran up the middle and broke two tackles en route to a 15-yard touchdown. Danny May’s two-point run made it 22-20 Lewiston with 1:41 to go.

“We’ve done it before, so many times. We did it against South Portland last week (in a 22-21 win),” EL senior running back/linebacker Josh Kaiser said of the Eddies’ comeback odds. “I trust in my quarterback. I trust in all of my teammates. I knew we were going to win that game.”

A roughing the passer penalty on the Blue Devils on second-and-15 helped extend the Eddies’ drive. Girardin then completed a 13-yard pass to Caleb Yarnevich and called his own number for runs of five and two yards to set up the winning touchdown.

“I think we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Lewiston coach Bruce Nicholas said. “We lined up offsides three times. On that last drive, we roughed the quarterback and lined up offsides. You can’t do that if you’re going to win a game. We still don’t know how to put a game away.”

“We made an adjustment at halftime, coach (Jeff) Lagueux, coach (Josh) Barajas and we got together as a staff and they knew we could block it better,” EL coach Dave Sterling said. “Leighton had had some adversity, so to call his number there with Josh Kaiser, another captain, leading him into the hole, it’s just fun to watch. I’ve got a great seat to watch these guys perform.”

Fans were on the edge of their seats throughout the game thanks to some big defensive plays and some razzle-dazzle on offense by both sides.

Kaiser got EL on the board first when he caught a Lewiston fumble out of mid-air and raced 33 yards for a touchdown with 5:37 left in the first quarter.

“I just saw the ball come into my hands and I just ran south,” Kaiser said. 

Lewiston’s Isaac Lemieux recovered an EL onside kick attempt on the ensuing kickoff, setting the Devils up near midfield. They powered their way to the 4 with 10 runs in a row before Tanner Cortes found Landry in the right flat from four yards out for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal. EL retained a 7-6 lead when Lewiston missed the extra point.

The Blue Devils went deep into their playbook on their next series as Cortes pitched to May, who fired downfield to a wide-open Dylon Jackson for a 58-yard touchdown pass. Landry (23 carries, 99 yards) ran in the two-point conversion for Lewiston’s first lead, 14-7.

Edward Little used the same play, a halfback option, on its next play from scrimmage to swing momentum back in its favor. Ricky Cote hooked up with Yarnevich on a 61-yard TD pass.

“It had just happened to me,” said Yarnevich, who was responsible for covering Jackson on Lewiston’s trick play. “I told coach, ‘I can’t believe I got burned,’ and he’s, like, ‘Do you want to get them back with it?’ I said, ‘Of course.'”

“It’s one of those things we work on trying to get momentum-changers. Ricky Cote stepped up in a big way,” Sterling said. “Yarnevich caught it down the sideline and outran his guy.”

EL trailed 14-13 after missing the extra point, but hemmed the Devils deep into their own end to get one more shot at taking the lead before halftime. Taking over after a punt at Lewiston’s 21 with 16.2 seconds remaining, Girardin rolled to his left and fired across his body on the run to the back of the end zone, just out of the reach of a Lewiston defender and into the hands of a leaping Josh Hamel for a touchdown that made it 20-14 Red Eddies at intermission.

“If the ball is in the air, Hamel is going to do everything he can to come up with it,” Girardin said. “I had all of my trust in Hamel, and he made an incredible play.”

Girardin was 12-for-23 for 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Lewiston began at its own 45 to start the second half and started its second series at EL’s 35 but couldn’t capitalize. The defense continued to do its job with Landry’s interception at his own 41. The Blue Devils crossed into EL territory but stalled again.

Caleb Yarnevich reacts after catching a halfback option for a second quarter touchdown against Lewiston on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Kevin Haskell of Edward Little High School runs down Lewiston running back Danny May in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Hunter Landry of Lewiston High School gains yardage against an Edward Little defense during the second quarter in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Dylon Jackson of Lewiston High School hauls in a 58 yard halfback option pass for a touchdown during the second quarter against Edward Little High School on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Edward Little High School quarterback Leighton Girardin throws from outside the pocket while being pressured by Konnor Voisine, far left, and Dylon Jackson of Lewiston High school in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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