Mt. Blue’s Noah Prescott celebrates a touchdown in the end zone during a Sept. 23 game against Winslow in Farmington. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

FARMINGTON — The Mt. Blue football team had already won two games entering Friday’s showdown with Messalonskee. What the Cougars were lacking was a signature win.

After beating the league’s bottom-dweller in Brunswick to begin the year and in Week 3 squeaking past a Deering team that had lost 15 straight games, Mt. Blue came oh-so-close to earning a win of a different aura in Week 4 against Winslow. Friday night against Messalonskee was another shot for the Cougars — and this time, Mt. Blue did so with a 39-38 victory.

“This was definitely our signature win,” said Mt. Blue head coach Matt Friedman. “We felt that we gave that game away against Winslow — not that they’re not a great team, but we had some chances to win and just didn’t execute down the road. We were definitely happy to be able to finish this one out this week.”

Unlike last week, when Mt. Blue fell behind 21-0 and had to claw its way back to make the game a one-score game before Winslow finished it late with a long drive, the Cougars fought from the get-go in this one. Friedman’s team went up 14-8 early and never fell behind by more than one score, trailing just 24-19 entering the fourth quarter.

Mt. Blue then scored three of the next four touchdowns to take a 39-30 lead, the largest advantage for either team all night. Although Messalonskee answered with a touchdown and converted the ensuing 2-point try, the Cougars recovered the onside kick to ice the game.

Keeping pace with Messalonskee to start the game, Friedman said, had been Mt. Blue’s goal all week long in practice. The team also expanded its playbook, giving dual-threat quarterback Jayden Meader the green light to throw as he threw the ball 35 times for 243 yards.


“Our biggest thing going into the game was staying focused and not digging ourselves into a hole like we did the last couple of weeks,” Friedman said. “We wanted to play with the same intensity we did at the end of the game right from the opening kickoff. … We also wanted to open up that offense and take the training wheels off.”

The win could go a long way toward vaulting Mt. Blue into the Class B North playoffs a month from now. Entering the week, the Cougars were seventh in the league, which will see eight teams qualify for the postseason. The win pushed them to sixth, a seemingly minor jump but one that could make all the difference in the final Crabtree standings.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale quarterback Owen Harding completes a pass to Brayden Stubbert against Foxcroft during a football game Sept. 2 in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“One thing we talked about was, with our strength of schedule being so low because of where we were ranked in the preseason, we’re going to need to win more games to get in,” Friedman said. “Wins like this are big in helping you get there, and I’m proud of our kids for getting it.”

‘FIRST-YEAR QUARTERBACK” is a phrase that often elicits groans from the fan base, but it is unavoidable in football. Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale senior Owen Harding, however, has brought nothing but smiles.

Before the season, Harding was given the unenviable task of succeeding the graduated Andrew Foster, who guided the Ramblers to last year’s Class D championship game.

In his debut Sept. 6 against Class D champion Foxcroft, Foster was 8 of 15 for 182 yards and two TDs — and, alas, two interceptions in an eventual 28-27 overtime loss. But he gave notice that the normally ground-based Ramblers now had an extra dimension in their attack.


In Friday’s 35-7 win over Winslow, Harding was 6 of 8 for 82 yards and a touchdown pass, a 43-yard seam route to freshman Ben Porter over the middle that coach Dave St. Hilaire described as “a thing of beauty.” The strike gave him five touchdown passes in four games. He also ran for a score on one of his three carries.

Much in the manner the Ramblers spread around the ball Friday — four different players found the end zone — Harding was quick to spread the praise.

“I’ve been working a lot after practices with my coaches, reading my keys,” Harding said. “My playmakers have really let me step up. I have a lot of trust in my playmakers over the DBs and everything.

“I learned from those mistakes (earlier in the season). I’ve learned what I can’t do when I throw the ball downfield.”

Added teammate and backfield mate Nick Keezer: “He’s become a lot better passer. He’s been able to find guys downfield, and he seems a lot more patient in the pocket.”

A YEAR AGO, Nokomis found itself locked in defensive battles week after week. The Warriors’ 2022 season has gone much differently.


Nokomis, which was held to seven points or fewer in six of its eight games last season, has scored 30 or more four times already this year. On the other side of the ball, the Warriors are giving up nearly 30 points per game after giving up an average of 15.4 a year ago.

Nokomis wide receiver Madden White (17) makes a catch as Hermon’s Clark Pelletier (11) defends during a game last season in Newport. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We kind of thought that might be how it was going to be this year,” said Nokomis head coach Jake Rogers. “Defensively, we lost two key players who were the heart of our defense and were great at lateral tackling, but our offense has gotten a lot better schematically.”

The tradeoff has seemed to be a good one for Nokomis, which has already won three games after going just 1-7 in 2021. That has the Warriors right in the thick of a Class C North race that has five of the league’s 10 teams in a logjam in the top half of the standings with records of 3-2.

A year ago, Nokomis’ limited offense consisted primarily of quarterback Grady Hartsgrove looking to connect with receivers Madden White and Ace Flagg for big plays. With Flagg a freshman and Hartsgrove and White having not played since they were freshmen after losing the 2020 season to COVID-19, that offense was a work in progress.

Although Flagg has moved on to Montverde Academy in Florida to play basketball, Hartsgrove and White have evolved as a duo. With the emergence of Aaron Mooers and Dawson Townsend as additional receiving threats and Isaiah Morin in the run game, the Warriors have made great strides offensively.

“We’re getting back to doing kind of the same thing we did last year, but the kids are more experienced, and we’re doing it at a higher level,” Rogers said. “The quarterback is a little more poised, and Madden is playing great, but we’re also spreading the ball around more. We’ve really taken off.”


Like Mt. Blue, Nokomis has gotten off to slow starts early in games a few times this season. But the Warriors were much more efficient early on in their latest contest, jumping out to a two-score lead in the first quarter Friday en route to a 40-16 road win over Belfast.

“Offensively, we were as crisp as we’ve been at the start of a game all year,” Rogers said. “Madden went out early in the game with a hamstring injury, but everyone else stepped up for us. It was good to see.”

THE FIRST HALF of the regular season was full of compelling matchups. The start of the second half was no different.

Of the 10 games involving central Maine teams this past weekend, only two, Maine Central Institute’s 56-20 win over Old Town and Oak Hill’s 60-6 win over Madison/Carrabec, were blowouts. Although some of the other games weren’t necessarily nail-biters late, they were still somewhat competitive well into the second half.

Two of those games, though, truly stood out: Mt. Blue’s win over Messalonskee and Mount View’s 70-67 defeat against Stearns in Millinocket. They’re the types of matchups that provide a breath of fresh air in an era where schedule-makers must often move mountains to create competitive matchups.

The Mt. Blue game featured three lead changes in the fourth quarter alone, the last of which put the Cougars up for good. Even when Mt. Blue added to that lead by going up two scores for the first time, the home team could not breathe easy until sophomore Trey Bailey secured the onside kick with 22 seconds left to cement the win.


“It was back-and-forth the whole way,” Friedman said. “It was homecoming for us, so you could really tell that our team had that extra emotion and that extra bit of fire in their eyes, but they played a great game, too. It was all-around good football, and it was fun to be a part of.”

Meanwhile, nearly three hours away in the Katahdin area, Mount View was locked in possibly the game of the year with Stearns in an eight-man Small School battle. The Mustangs, who trailed 46-15 at halftime, stormed all the way back to take a 67-62 lead before Stearns scored a late touchdown and sealed the win with a late interception.

The combined 137 points scored set an eight-man record, breaking the previous mark of 132 set by Dexter and Mattanawcook Academy in the Tigers’ 76-56 victory over the Lynx on Sept. 10.

Wyatt Evensen rushed for a whopping 475 yards and eight touchdowns for the Mustangs in the win.


Staff reporter David Bailey contributed to this report.

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