AUBURN — Sanford senior quarterback Xavier Levine has done a lot to earn the trust of coach Mike Fallon over the last two seasons, but letting him make a play on third-and-25 from near midfield with the Spartans already leading Edward Little by two touchdowns takes being a believer to a new level.

Levine came through, of course, lofting a deep pass to his 6-foot-6 tight end Leyton Bickford, who jumped to catch it over two defenders before being tackled at EL’s 6-yard-line.

“I love the coaching staff that I have behind me. They give me an opportunity to show what I have,” Levine said. “(Bickford’s) 6-6. He’s the biggest target we have. You throw it, he catches it. We haven’t had an incompletion between the two of us.”

Caleb Saucier took it in from there for the second of his two first-half touchdowns to send Sanford (2-1) well on its way to a 42-7 win Friday night at Walton Field.

“That’s the theme with our team this year, that we have kids like Xavier and other skill kids that even when things kind of fall apart, they’re such good skill players that they make things happen,” Fallon said. “Xavier is good with his eyes, he’s good with his hands and he’s good with his feet. He always seems to make the right choice.”

“We have them backed up and we’ve got to make a play on the ball, as well as we’ve got to make a play on the quarterback,” Edward Little coach Dave Sterling said. “We had opportunities. We’ve just got to get better.”

Levine completed all six of his pass attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown and ran for 93 yards and another score on five attempts, all in the first half.

Saucier added 55 yards on the ground. Ethan Shain needed just three carries for his 94 yards and a touchdown, and Ryley Bougie added 52 yards rushing and a score before sitting out the second half with the rest of the Spartans’ first string.

Two of the Spartans’ nine first-half penalties helped put them in the third-and-25 predicament. Teams protecting a lead often stay conservative in favor of field position in that situation. But once Levine got the green light, he knew exactly where he was going.

Edward Little (0-3) fumbled on the game’s opening possession, which Saucier recovered at the Eddies’ 32. On Sanford’s first play from scrimmage, Levine handed it off to Saucier, who ran right then handed it to Shain, who ran around the left side on a reverse untouched for a touchdown.

Sanford kept it on the ground on its next series and drove 56 yards on nine plays, including a whirling dervish 10-yard run by Saucier, before he finished it off with a 1-yard TD run. Kicker Parker Pease added the extra point and finished the night six-for-six.

After a 3-yard touchdown run by Bougie made it 21-0, Sanford’s defense forced a punt that was partially blocked by Dante Sawyer, setting the Spartans’ offense up at its own 44.

A 36-yard run by Shain pushed the Spartans to the red zone. Two plays later, Levine dropped back to pass, couldn’t find anyone open, then tucked it in and won the footrace to the goal line for a 16-yard touchdown run that made it 35-0 with 7:21 left in the first half.

“We had a corner route set up for Leyton,” Levine said. “The pocket collapsed and I saw two safeties over the top of it, so I knew it was going to be a contested ball. I saw green grass, so I just decided to tuck it and go.”

“That speaks to his growth,” Fallon said. “Last year was his very first year ever quarterbacking a football team, let alone a high school team. So his learning curve was pretty steep last year and he embraced it. And he’s really evolved in terms of his approach to the game.”

Edward Little got a much-needed spark when quarterback Jack Keefe (16-for-26, 172 yards, TD) found Devonte Scott on a quick hitter. Scott got a crunching block from tight end John Shea, then scampered down the right sideline for a 56-yard gain that set the Eddies up first-and-goal at the 9.

Sanford’s defense stiffened, though, and Nick Ravesi sacked Keefe on fourth down to keep EL off the board in the first half. Levine and Bickford hooked up again on a 10-yard touchdown pass late in the half.

“That’s two weeks in a row. Last week, Oxford Hills, in their very first drive, hit a big pass play, had the ball down to the 2, and we stonewalled them,” Fallon said. “It speaks volumes to our kids’ compete level.”

The Red Eddies spoiled the shutout bid late in the fourth quarter when Keefe connected with Shea for a 22-yard touchdown.

Tyler Jalbert had a fumble recovery for EL.


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