READFIELD — It would only make sense, perhaps, that two teams that could only be separated in the standings by a literal coin toss took until the final minute to be separated on the field.

For Dirigo, it might be a game that, years from now, those on the sidelines and in the stands look back and refer to simply as “The Drive.” For Maranacook, it’s another heartbreaking end to a season in which the Black Bears were among the premier teams in eight-man Small School football.

Dirigo used a 17-play, 89-yard drive that ate up nine minutes of clock to notch the winning score in the final minute and secure a 26-20 victory over Maranacook in a Small School South semifinal game Friday night at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams. The drive came after penalties and negative yardage saw the Black Bears falter twice inside the 10-yard line on potential go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter.

“It’s tough to take a game like that on the chin,” said Maranacook head coach Jordan DeMillo. “When you get that far down into the red zone and have so many penalties that change the outcome and can’t pick up the yardage you need, it definitely hurts.” 

Charlie Houghton (9 of 17 with 114 yards and two touchdowns passing) completed four passes to Nathaniel Wainwright for 41 yards on the winning drive. The first three passes all went for first downs with the latter providing the go-ahead score for No. 3 Dirigo (7-2) with just 44 seconds left.

Second-ranked Maranacook (6-3) ran the ball well, getting 23 carries for 192 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Kody Goucher and 21 carries for 122 yards and a score from Owen Dunn. Yet Dirigo kept the Black Bears at bay in the run game in the second half, limiting Dunn to 16 yards on seven carries and Goucher to 53 on 10.


After both teams failed to score on their opening drives, Maranacook took the lead on its second possession on a 9-yard run from Goucher. Dirigo then answered with two big pass plays, the second of which was a 13-yard touchdown pass from Houghton to Dakota Tompkins that tied it at 6 with 2:34 left in the opening quarter.

In the second quarter, No. 3 Dirigo (7-2) went up 12-6 on a 65-yard Trenton Hutchinson run before Dunn reeled off a 47-yard scamper to make it 12-12. Hutchinson then ran 35 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, but Maranacook responded again with Goucher providing the half’s final points on a 46-yard run with 4:38 to go that tied it at 20.

“We weren’t staying in our gaps, and we weren’t executing very well,” Dirigo head coach Craig Collins said of his team’s first-half defensive performance. “We knew we didn’t have to change anything up at halftime; we told them to stay with what they did, believe in it and just start executing a little better.”

Maranacook defensive back Isaiah Churchill tackles Dirigo receiver Dakota Tompkins during an eight-man Small School South football semifinal game Friday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

That’s just what Dirigo did. Just when Maranacook looked set to pull ahead late in the third  after taking the ball all the way to the Dirigo 4, the Cougars forced a turnover on towns; after a blocked punt set the Black Bears up at the Dirigo 5, more stout defense (as well as a hold on a would-be touchdown) left Maranacook emptyhanded again.

“They started blitzing, and we just didn’t adjust quick enough when we got down to the red zone,” DeMillo said. “We didn’t run to the outside like we should have; we should have been running a toss or a quick out, and we just didn’t figure it out in time. We figured, if we got the ball back, that’s what we were going to do.”

Instead, by the time Maranacook got the ball back, there was very little game left after Dirigo marched down the field for the winning score. After three straight incompletions, a desperation fourth-down scramble by Goucher picked up just 2 yards as the Cougars left Readfield with a victory.


The result was the second six-point game this season between Maranacook and Dirigo, the first of which was won by the Black Bears 34-28 in Week 1. Just as Maranacook mounted a drive for a go-ahead touchdown inside the final minutes in that contest, the Cougars marched down for a thrilling win in the playoff rematch.

“We knew that it was going to be hard one and that we were going to have to fight for it,” said Dirigo’s Hutchinson, who ran for 107 yards on six carries and had three catches for 55 yards. “We were mentally prepared for the dogfight we were going to get into. … We just found that gear and went hard.”

Houghton also ran for 107 yards for Dirigo, doing so on 18 carries. That total included a fourth-and-1 conversion and 6- and 7-yard carries that set up first-and-goal on the winning drive. Goucher, who had the blocked punt for Maranacook on defense, completed 4 of 9 passes for 33 yards.

Dirigo’s Trenton Hutchinson leans the ball over the goal line to score a touchdown just ahead of Maranacook’s Coby Dunn during an eight-man Small School South football semifinal game Friday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The loss marked the second straight year that Maranacook had its season come to an end after conceding a late touchdown. A year ago, the Black Bears lost in the state championship game 34-30 to Dexter on a miracle lateral play as time expired.

“It just came down to mistakes, both known and unknown,” DeMillo said. “We just had too many of those , especially down in the red zone, like I said. It’s a tough one to take, but you just have to hold your head high, accept what happened and move on to next year.” 

Dirigo will host No. 4 Old Orchard Beach (7-2) in next weekend’s Small School South championship game. The Seagulls upset previously undefeated No. 1 Mountain Valley (7-1) 28-16 in Friday night’s other regional semifinal.

Dirigo’s Dakota White forces Maranacook’s Coby Dunn out of bounds during an eight-man Small School South football semifinal game Friday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

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