Edward Little High School quarterback Leighton Girardin finds a hole between Lewiston High School defenders during the first half in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — For the second time in as many weeks, Leighton Girardin rallied Edward Little to victory over rival Lewiston.

This time, though, the Red Eddies’ captain comeback left enough time for the defense to put the exclamation point on its Battle of the Bridge triumph.

Girardin’s four-yard touchdown run put EL ahead with 1:42 remaining, then Tyler Jalbert forced and Josh Kaiser recovered a Lewiston fumble with 55 seconds left that clinched an 18-13 win in a Class A North first-round playoff game at Walton Field on Friday night.

“It’s the best thing ever,” Kaiser said. “Beating Lewiston twice in a row, it’s what I’ve dreamed of.”

“They’re all our best friends. We know all of them so well,” Girardin said of the Eddies’ rivals. “It’s going to be something we can talk about when we’re 40, 50 years old, how we beat them back-to-back.”

No. 4 Edward Little (5-4), which rallied last week to beat Lewiston 26-22 in the final minute, will face top-seeded Portland in the regional semifinals next week. No. 5 Lewiston’s season ends at 2-7.

Girardin’s go-ahead score came after Lewiston took a 13-12 lead with 3:50 to go on Tanner Cortes’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Dylon Jackson and Deon Hunt’s point-after kick.

Starting from his own 37, Girardin moved the Eddies down the field with a trio of short completions, then, after a pair of incompletions, converted a third-and-10 with a 13-yard run to Lewiston’s 15.

After an incomplete pass on first down, Girardin ran 11 yards to make it first-and-goal, then ran up the middle untouched for the winning score.

“We never hang our heads when we’re down in the fourth quarter,” Girardin said. “We always know that we have the power to move the ball down the field and score when we need to score.”

Lewiston faced a third-and-2 when Jalbert, a junior nose tackle, stripped Cortes, and Kaiser pounced on the loose ball at his own 37.

“It was just a run up the middle. I did my job and filled the hole,” Jalbert said. “All of my team swarmed around it and I just hit him in the right spot.”

“I saw the ball, I hopped on it and I was, like, ‘We’ve got this game in the bag,'” Kaiser said.

After hurting itself with a number of key penalties last week, the Blue Devils once again made things harder on themselves by drawing eight flags for 90 yards, while Edward Little had just one accepted penalty for 15 yards.

Lewiston also fumbled four times in the second half.

“I don’t know how many (penalties) were against them and against us, but it just did not seem even,” Lewiston coach Bruce Nicholas said. “We practiced all week, we fine-tuned and we still got all kinds of holding penalties. That’s frustrating. And we fumbled the ball a lot, too.”

Lewiston overcame two holding penalties on the game’s opening drive to find the end zone on Cortes’ 11-yard touchdown pass to Noah Adamson in the right flat on fourth-and-10. The PAT missed to keep it 6-0.

Led by Cortes and Deon Hunt, the Blue Devils were able to get into the backfield to harass Girardin for much of the night and keep the speedy signal-caller hemmed in, much like they did last week until his 38-yard game-winning touchdown run with less than a minute left.

“I don’t think we came out as hyped up or as strong as they did,” Girardin said. “But once we were able to get a couple of plays going, put together a couple of drives, it just started stacking up, and in the second half it felt like we could move the ball when we wanted to.”

Again like last week, Girardin was able to direct a scoring drive late in the first half, completing a pair of passes and converting a third-and-2 at midfield with his legs.

EL then ran another trick play with junior wide receiver Ricky Cote, who last week completed a pass for a touchdown. This time, after taking a lateral pass from Girardin in front of the EL sideline, he hooked up with Jonathan Knight for a 40-yard completion that fell just shy of the goal line.

“Our kids buy in each week to working on something special,” EL coach Dave Sterling said. 

Isaiah Lewis pounded it from the 1 and, after Lewiston stuffed Girardin on the two-point run attempt, the teams went into halftime knotted 6-6.

Things got chippy between the rivals early in the second half, prompting officials to call both coaches to the middle of the field for a chat. The rest of the third quarter saw Lewiston fumble twice and Edward Little fumble once, with neither offense able to take advantage of the turnovers.

EL finally was able to capitalize on Lewiston’s third fumble of the half, which Lewis recovered at the Devils’ 20. On the next play, Girardin faked a handoff, rolled to his left and found Josh Hamel open in the end zone. Lewiston stopped Girardin again on the two-point run attempt to keep it 12-6 with 8:01 remaining.

Lewiston leads the all-time series, 93-72-12.

Tanner Cortes of Lewiston High School sacks Edward Little High School quarterback Leighton Girardin, forcing a fumble, during the first half in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Kevin Haskell of Edward Little High School tackles Deon Hunt of Lewiston High School after a short reception during the first half in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Hunter Landry of Lewiston High School tears up the middle during the first quarter against Edward Little in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Isiah Lewis of Edward Little High School celebrates along the EL sideline after Lewis scored a touchdown to tie the game up at 6 against Lewiston on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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