GRAY — About the only thing to stop Holden Brannan on Friday was a cramp early in the fourth quarter.

Otherwise, the Mt. Ararat senior running back proved hard to bring down, running 20 times for 214 yards in the Eagles’ 56-28 victory over Gray-New Gloucester in an large-school eight-man football season opener at Myles Burbank Memorial Field.

Brannan scored three rushing touchdowns on consecutive drives in the second quarter to help put the Eagles (1-0) in control. The last of the trio came with 42.2 seconds left in the first half and gave Mt. Ararat a 28-6 lead.

“With eight-man football there’s a lot of open-field running, and some of these shifty guys are going to have a little bit of an advantage at first until the defenses catch up to it,” Mt. Ararat coach Frank True said. “But, yeah, he had a heck of a night tonight. He’s a heck of a running back.”

Brannan, who had 198 of his rushing yards in the first half, added a 35-yard touchdown catch from Cam Wallace in the third quarter to his stat line.

“It was unbelievable,” Patriots head coach Brian Jahna said. “It was hard to even get into him, and then even when you did get your hands on him he ran right through us.”

Fellow senior runner Riley Morin contributed three of his own scoring runs, including an 8-yard touchdown run on the opening possession.

“I think running back-wise, I think we match up with everybody,” True said. “I haven’t seen everybody in the league, but I got to believe that those guys are two of the best ones in our league.”

The Patriots (0-1) didn’t have the same dream start on offense. A bad hand-off on their second play of the game handed the ball back over to the Eagles. Then after a fourth-down stop by the Patriots defense, the offense fumbled the ball away again to end a promising nine-play drive.

“They’re tough. Mt. Ararat. That’s just tough, physical guys. So when they hit you, that ball’s liable to come out,” Jahna said.

Trent Overcash finally put the Patriots on the board late in the second quarter, running in from 8 yards out to end the Eagles’ 22-0 start.

The second half got off to a better start for the Patriots. Noah Patriquin scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 28-14, but as Jahna said, “We couldn’t stop them on defense.”

The Eagles scored on their first four drives of the second half, starting with Brannan’s touchdown catch. Morin then added his second and third scoring runs, and backup quarterback Nolan Blessington finished the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run.

After the Eagles defense forced its fourth fumble of the game — recovering all of them — Blessington kneeled for the final play of the game.

The Patriots drew within two scores three times in the second half, with Overcash and quarterback Danny Stash both running in for touchdowns, but they couldn’t get the stops to get any closer.

“We were talking about that in the second half, that’s really what the difference was. We fumbled the ball, they didn’t, and that ultimately was it,” Jahna said. “I thought we played pretty well with them. … I thought we played pretty well offensively, except for our turnovers.”

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