Bryce Connor rolled to his left, as the play called for. When he saw nothing open, the Dexter quarterback scrambled right, barely avoided a Maranacook tackler, and scrambled more. The final horn went off, and Connor finally saw Avery Gagnon, about 10 yards away at the 5-yard line.

Gagnon caught the pass – his only catch of the game – cut to the center of the field and ran untouched into the end zone, giving Dexter a 34-30 win over Maranacook in the Eight-Man Small School state championship game Saturday at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium.

That wild final play gave Dexter (7-2) its first state title since winning Class C in 1987. Maranacook ends the season at 5-4.

“I just stood there. That’s all I did, really. Bryce made the play. He was running around. Man, it’s unbelievable,” Gagnon said, clutching the Gold Ball trophy with the same firm grip that caught the winning touchdown.

The final play came on second-and-10 from the 15. It was designed to have Connor roll left, with three receivers coming across from the right, and Gagnon as an outlet checkdown.

What was Gagnon thinking when he saw Connor improvise and finally toss the ball his way?

“I gotta catch it first. There was like five defenders standing right there, but it looked like they were stuck in mud,” Gagnon said.

Maranacook defender Seth White tackles Dexter’s Bryce Connor during the eight-man small school state championship game Saturday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I’m rolling out to my left, nothing’s open. I’m coming across the field, I have no clue. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Hoping for a miracle, and that’s what happened. It’s just a miracle, man,” Connor said.

Maranacook Coach Jordan DeMillo watched it all unfold in amazement, almost certain one of his players would bring down Connor and send his team into a victory celebration.

“It was a broken play and they made magic happen. Tip your cap to them,” DeMillo said.

It was a back-and-forth game in which Maranacook never relinquished the lead until the final play. Twice, the Black Bear held a 10-point lead, only to see the Tigers rally. Chris Reid’s 8-yard run with 6:13 left in the third quarter gave Maranacook a 30-20 lead. Dexter answered with an 11-yard touchdown run by Nathan Schobel, who missed last week’s North final because of an ankle sprain, cutting its deficit to 30-28 entering the fourth quarter.

The Black Bears appeared in good shape when they recovered a Dexter fumble at the Tigers 41 with 7:32 to go, but a holding penalty on fourth-and-6 negated a first down, and Maranacook lost the ball on downs at the Dexter 44 with 5:30 left.

“We did feel like we had the better team here, but I did feel like if they stuck around, it was going to be one of those down to the wire games,” DeMillo said. “It’s a tough way to lose, but I’m proud of the way my guys battled. Sometimes you’d rather lose by 21 than lose like that.”

Gagnon said in his postgame remarks that Dexter Coach Andrew Shorey told the Tigers to carry the perseverance they showed in Saturday’s game through life when things get tough.

“Things got tough today, they sure did,” Gagnon said, “but we pushed through.”


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