DIXFIELD — Mountain Valley has been so dominant this season that coach Pat Mooney wondered how they’d respond to a challenge.

Dirigo provided one Saturday, battling the unbeaten Falcons until the final minute, but Mountain Valley proved its mettle and emerged with a 32-24 victory in the regular-season finale to lock up the top seed in the upcoming 8-man football Small School South playoffs.

“I had a big question mark about how we’d handle adversity, because coming in we haven’t had much,” Mooney said. “We haven’t given up many points, we’ve scored a lot; but what happens in the fourth quarter when we’ve got to score? Do we hang in there and finish it?

“I’m glad that we showed that we could.”

After the Cougars (5-2) got within two points — for the third time in the game — with 7:09 remaining, the Falcons (7-0) marched 62 yards on 10 running plays, the final one a 2-yard touchdown run by Kaden Paaso to go up 32-24 with 3:29 left in the game.

Dirigo, as it did throughout the game, responded. The Cougars drove from their own 37 into the red zone. Quarterback Charlie Houghton’s long reach got the ball past the 16 on a fourth-down play, but that was about a yard short of a first down.


“Our defense, we worked so hard all game long, it was now or never. We bent and broke a little bit, at times. This was just a group effort. They were going to finish this thing and they weren’t going to let them continue to drive,” Mooney said.

The Falcons regained possession and ran out the clock.

“That was a really intense game,” Mountain Valley senior Robert Leveillee said. “Dirigo, they did really good. I give a lot of props to them.”

“That was a fist fight,” Mooney added. “I told (Dirigo) coach (Craig) Collins afterwards, I think both of us are going to need most of the week to sit in an ice bath after that one.”


Mountain Valley controlled the first quarter, scoring on its first two drives and forcing Dirigo to go three-and-out on its first two possessions.


Leveillee faked a run with a short rollout and threw the ball to Rilan Farnum, who had a wide-open field in front of him and picked up 51 yards before he was taken down at the Dirigo 22-yard line.

“Usually we set teams up with the sweep and then the safeties try to cheat up to play the run, and those (receivers) get open,” Mooney said. “I think we’ve thrown the ball maybe six times all year, so we figured if we could do that early, we might be able to get some momentum that way.”

Four running plays later, Leveillee scored on a 6-yard run, giving the Falcons a 6-0 lead.

Following the Cougars’ second three-and-out, Mountain Valley drove 52 yards on 10 running plays, the last a 1-yard TD run by Paaso. Jyrrmal Yates ran in the conversion for a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Although the Falcons were again able to work their way down the field and into the end zone, the Dirigo defense began to show a stingier side during Mountain Valley’s second scoring drive. The Cougars nearly stopped the Falcons on a fourth-and-long, and forced them to run three the ball three times after first-and-goal from the 3. On Paaso’s touchdown run and Yates’ conversion, both runners could only reach the ball across the goal line because the forward progress of their bodies was stalled by one or more Cougars.

Dirigo also got going on the other side of the ball. On the second play of its next offensive drive, Houghton completed a 10-yard pass to Dakota Tompkins, and though it didn’t even give the Cougars a first down, that one play seemed to spark the offense.


The next play, on third-and-1, Houghton ran for 23 yards into Mountain Valley territory. A few plays later, he connected with Trent Holman on another pass, this one for 12 yards. The 16-play, 73-yard drive ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Houghton. Mountain Valley blocked the PAT to keep the score at 14-6 with 7:15 remaining in the second quarter.

The Dirigo defense ended the Falcons’ next drive by forcing a turnover on downs at the Dirigo 17-yard line. The Cougars offense traveled the 83 yards in a little more than four minutes. Houghton scored on a 2-yard run, and the Cougars were within two points, 14-12, with 28 seconds left in the first half.

While Mooney entered the game uncertain of how the Falcons would handle adversity, Collins wondered about his team’s fortitude heading into Saturday’s game.

“I wanted to see how tough we were. And we’re tough. We’re tougher than I thought we were,” Collins said. “I knew we could come back, I wasn’t worried about that.

“… Their run game, that’s a powerful run attack they have. So I wanted to see how we’d perform, you know, toughness on toughness, and I learned we’re tougher than I thought we were.”



Mountain Valley opened the third quarter with a long drive that ended with an 8-yard run by Paaso to make it 20-12 six and a half minutes into the second half.

The Falcons’ breathing room was short-lived.

Dirigo’s Trenton Hutchinson returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a TD, and the Cougars deficit was back to two points, 20-18.

“Trent does that. Personally, I think he’s the best returner in Small 8-man,” Collins said. “I bet that’s like his fourth or fifth (return touchdown) this year.”

The teams swapped turnovers — Dirigo’s Holman recovered a fumble and Farnum intercepted a pass for Mountain Valley and returned it to the Cougars’ 30.

Leveillee handled all 30 yards for the Falcons, running three times and finishing the short drive with a 10-yard TD run to give Mountain Valley another eight-point lead with about a minute left in the third quarter.


Dirigo remained unflinching. The offense covered 69 yards in about six minutes on its next drive, which included a nifty 30-yard reception by Holman, who cut back to track down Houghton’s throw, and a 12-yard completion to Tompkins, before Houghton ran in his third score of the game on a 2-yard run to make it a 26-24 game with 7:09 remaining in the fourth.

Houghton completed 8 of 15 passes for 97 yards. He also ran for 133 yards on 27 carries.

Mountain Valley’s offense found another gear on its final scoring drive. Six of its next nine plays were runs of six yards or more, and four of those plays gained more than 10 yards (two 11-yarders and a 10-yarder by Leveillee and a 13-yard scamper by Paaso). On the 10th play, Paaso scored his third TD run of the game on fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard line.

“The line started doing their job, and I’d just fall behind them. They did really good,” Leveillee said. “We just kept bouncing back, and just doing what we had to do.”

Paaso led the Falcons with 138 yards rushing and three TDs on 21 carries, while Leveille gained 135 yards on 25 carries and scored twice. Lucas Libby added 74 more yards on the ground.



While Mountain Valley has locked up the top seed and a first-round playoff matchup next week with eighth-place Traip (0-7), Dirigo is left in a bit of an awkward situation. Old Orchard Beach beat Telstar 48-6 and Maranacook beat Sacopee Valley 46-6 on Saturday, and that puts the Cougars in a three-way tie for second place with the Seagulls and the Black Bears.

The first tiebreaker, head-to-head matchup doesn’t fix the logjam because Dirigo beat Old Orchard Beach, Old Orchard Beach beat Maranacook, and Maranacook beat Dirigo. The three teams also have identical division and overall records and the same amount of Heal points. The only tiebreaker left is a coin flip.

So, the Cougars can finish anywhere between second place and fourth place. No matter what seed they end up with, Mooney said he thinks Mountain Valley will face them again in the coming weeks.

“I told the team afterwards: this was a great effort, we’re going to see them again,” he said. “You get punched in the face, it will happen again.”

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