WINTHROP — Even after Spruce Mountain lost starting quarterback Jack Bryant to a leg injury, it looked as if the Phoenix would hang close with top-seeded Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale. 

But Bryant’s backup, Brandon Frey, went down soon after with a knee injury, and Winthrop ran away with a 47-6 win in the Class D South semifinals.

Winthrop will host the winner of Saturday’s game Oak Hill and Lisbon, next week in the D South championship.

On the second play from scrimmage, Winthrop’s Keegan Choate found Ryan Baird for a 51-yard touchdown pass to put the Ramblers up 6-0 less than a minute into the game.

Things quickly went from for the Phoenix when, on their first offensive play, Bryant ran a quarterback keeper up the middle and hurt his leg, needing help off the field. 

Brandon Frey, Spruce’s starting running back, took over at quarterback and immediately completed a 27-yard pass, one of three first downs on the drive before a 13-yard touchdown run from Frey tied the game at 6-6. 


Spruce forced Winthrop into a rare fourth-and-57 which turned into a punt that gave the Phoenix possession at the Ramblers’ 15-yard line. 

On the ensuing drive, Frey took a quarterback keeper up the middle for four yards but stayed down after the tackle. Like Bryant, Frey had to be helped off the field and was later wearing a knee brace and leaning on crutches. 

“When Bryant went down and they put Frey back there at the wildcat, we had actually prepared for the wildcat,” Winthrop coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “Coach (Jarod) Richmond, our defensive coordinator, had remembered a few years ago that (Spruce assistant) coach (Jamie) Robinson was on the Dirigo staff, and they ran the wildcat and beat us in the playoffs the year before I joined.”

Jayden Perreault took over under center and fumbled the snap on fourth down, turning it over to the Ramblers. 

“We had two injuries that hurt us and we just didn’t recover,” Spruce Mountain coach David Frey said. “I think we had them, we went right down and scored, and I think it would have been a different game had we kept Brandon.

“Injuries, they hurt us sometimes. Those two guys had great seasons. They are two of the best athletes you’ll see, probably two of the best athletes I’ve coached here.”


Logan Baird finished off a long Winthrop drive with an 11-yard touchdown run with 8:37 left in the first half that put the Ramblers up 14-6 after a successful two-point throw. 

Winthrop forced a quick punt and immediately drove down the field again. Choate ran up the left side and slipped around a couple of defenders for a 25-yard touchdown run that pushed the Ramblers’ lead to 21-6, which they took into the halftime break. 

Although he scored twice in the first half, Choate was just 3-for-11 passing and wasn’t happy with his team’s energy. 

“It’s always important for us to score, but we just got down on ourselves in that first half,” Choate said. “Even when they lose their two best players, we are still down on ourselves. 

“At halftime we just needed to relax as a unit.”

Winthrop began the third quarter by forcing a punt, which led to a 60-yard touchdown run by Jevin Smith up the middle make it 28-6. 


The Ramblers scored quickly on their next drive when Beau Schmelzer caught a screen pass and ran 50 yards for a TD. 

“The second half is how we’ve played most of this year,” St. Hilaire said. “We have fun, the light switch goes on and we just play football.” 

After Spruce fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Ian Steele ran for a 25-yard touchdown on the second play of the next drive to put the Ramblers up 40-6 midway through the third.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale’s offense found a rhythm in the third quarter and pulled away from the Phoenix.

“It always feels good when you score, but you always want to score more, too,” Choate said. “We left some opportunities out there in the first half, but we made up for it in the second half. I liked how we rallied in the second half because when we click, we click.”

Steele added a second touchdown later in the fourth quarter, this one from six yards away, making the Ramblers’ lead 47-6.

Senior Brandon Coates was Spruce’s main offensive weapon in the second half, gaining 32 of his 36 total yards. Frey gained 58 total yards, leading the team, before his injury.

Choate finished with 181 total yards and was responsible for three scores.

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