DIXFIELD — Old Orchard Beach’s fifth offensive turnover was its most nerve-wracking, but it was followed moments later but celebration as the Seagulls advanced their postseason run into the state final.

Dirigo intercepted Brady Plante’s throwaway deep pass after the final seconds ticked off the clock in Friday’s football game. The Cougars’ numerous laterals didn’t produce a miracle, and Old Orchard Beach hung on for a 20-16 victory in the 8-man Small School South regional final.

“I’m like, ‘Go down, go down,'” Old Orchard Beach coach Dean Plante said. “(Brady’s) best friend is Riley Provencher, he’s telling him to go down, and we said, ‘Throw it away.’ I don’t even know what happened, but all I know is thank God those (penalty flags for forward laterals) came out because I’m losing my mind. That was fun.”

Third-seeded Dirigo (7-3) took an 8-6 lead into halftime, then added to it when Trenton Hutchinson scored on a 9-yard touchdown run a few minutes into the third quarter.

“My defensive coordinator (Jason Webber) looked at me and he said, ‘All you got to get is two (touchdowns), they’re not going to score again.’ He knew it,” Dean Plante said. “He looked at me and said, ‘They’re done. They’re not going to get to 20. So I trust him.”

Fourth-seeded Old Orchard Beach (8-2) will face Orono in next week’s 8-man Small School state final. The Seagulls played in the state’s first 8-man state final in 2019, but lost to Mt. Ararat. They’ll be seeking their first state title since winning a Class C crown in 1993.


“We were in the inaugural one. We knew we were up against it, playing the large schools. And we didn’t cry about it, we just played,” Dean Plante said. “And then we had everyone coming back and we got hosed by COVID. And we knew we were going to be right in the thick of things.

“So this is for the class of 2019, 2020, and our whole community.”

Old Orchard threw an interception on its first possession of the second half, and the score was still 16-6 when the game moved into the fourth quarter. The Seagulls, though, was already on a drive that eventually led to a 32-yard scoring strike from Brady Plante to Wesley Gallant. A 2-point run by Elijah Vasquez cut the Cougars’ lead to 16-14 with 9:54 remaining in the game.

“We were feeling confident, but we weren’t over-confident,” Dirigo coach Craig Collins said about taking a 10-point lead. “We felt OK. We knew they had the ability to score.

“… I thought (Airick Richard) could have picked it off, he tipped it and the guy caught it (for the touchdown). You know, that happens. I thought that was kind of the turning point of the fourth quarter.”

Old Orchard took the lead later in the fourth when Plante ran into the end zone from 25 yards out, putting the Seagulls up 20-16 with 2:48 left in the game. Vasquez set up the touchdown with 51 yards on six consecutive runs.


“We knew we had enough time, and Elijah was running the ball well. He’s slippery,” Dean Plante said. “And we felt like if we scored one with seven, eight minutes left, we could continue to run the ball. We didn’t have to do too much different.

“And (Dirigo) did a nice job. We’re a pretty potent passing attack and they had a great game plan. It was tough treading. Wes made a hell of a play (on the first touchdown of the fourth quarter). We had a couple open we didn’t hit. You know, we took what they gave us, and that was kind of the game plan.”

The Dirigo defense held Plante to 6 of 11 passing for 71 yards, but he ran 15 times for 78 yards. Vasquez carried the ball 22 times for 149 yards.

Dirigo’s next offensive possession ended with a turnover on downs with 1:41 to play. Senior quarterback Charlie Houghton (9 of 20 passing for 121 yards, 20 carries for 115 yards) was on the sideline for the play after his helmet came off on third down. With Trent Holman filling in at QB on fourth-and-12, the Cougars attempted a reverse run by Hutchinson, but the play only gained 5 yards.

“It was tough (to not have Houghton in the game),” Collins said. “Trent went out and did the best he could do, that’s all I could ask. It just happened. … I had faith in Trent. Trent played quarterback some last year, so it’s not like he hadn’t played quarterback.”

The Cougars, though, had one more chance to win when they intercepted Brady Plante’s pass in the final seconds, but they were unable to lateral their way down the field. Penalty flags illegal forward passes likely would have negated a score, anyway.


Old Orchard Beach showed an ability to move the ball on offense in the first half. The difficulty for the Seagulls was in holding onto it. They fumbled twice and threw an interception.

“Yeah, there was some frustration because we knew what we left on the field in the first half,” Dean Plante said. “But at the same time, both fumbles were hard-effort, extra-yardage stuff, and it’s hard to get ticked off. And Dirigo does a good job of ripping at the ball and doing that kind of stuff.

“That’s what we told them at halftime, is that, ‘You controlled the first half, you got to score one more time.’ And then (Dirigo) came out and marched right down the field (to open the third quarter).”

The Seagulls opened the game with a 12-play drive that advanced the ball to the Dirigo 24-yard line, but the Cougars forced a fumble that Isaiah Bradeen recovered.

The Dirigo offense’s first showing fizzled out around midfield when it turned the ball over on downs.

The Seagulls again marched the ball inside the Dirigo 25-yard line before Bode Gray ripped the ball out of Gallant’s hands to give the Cougars the ball back with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.


“While things were going well, we were playing well (on defense). Our guys did what they needed to do; they stayed in their gaps, they controlled their guy,” Collins said. “You know, you’re going to give up some big plays. The one thing I’ve learned coming to 8-man football, defense is difficult.”

Dirigo then put together a 12-play drive that was capped off by Houghton’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Hutchinson. Houghton ran in the 2-point conversion to give the Cougars an 8-0 lead with 8:29 left before halftime.

The Cougars looked poised to seize that momentum when Holman intercepted an OOB pass two plays later, but the ensuing Dirigo drive stalled around midfield.

The Cougars did get a little luck when Hutchinson’s punt was blocked by Old Orchard’s Derrick Webber, but then took a friendly Dirigo roll down to the Seagulls’ 21-yard line. But that ended up only making OOB trek a longer distance on its first touchdown drive of the game.

The Seagulls used nine plays, all runs, to finally get into the end zone. Asher Hubert finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds left in the half. The Cougars batted away Brady Plante’s 2-point pass to preserve their two-point lead.

Old Orchard Beach’s ensuing kick was short and recovered by Dirigo’s Tanner Bradeen recovered near midfield. The Cougars drove the ball to the Seagulls’ 15-yard line, but Hutchinson’s 34-yard field goal attempt went a little wide.

Hutchinson, one of 10 seniors on the Dirigo roster, finished the game with 10 carries for 65 yards and five catches for 66 yards.

“It’s very difficult because this is not where we want to be,” Collins said. “I’ll be honest. This is hard. The seniors gave me everything they could. We had a great year, but, overall, it’s not where we want to be.”

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