DIXFIELD — Dirigo, somehow, found itself with the ball and a chance to take the lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 8-man Small South semifinal.

But Maranacook’s Jack Crosby intercepted a pass and after a long return, Owen Dunn broke through the line to put the finishing touches on the Black Bears’ 40-28 victory over the second-seeded Cougars.

Third-seeded Maranacook (6-2) advances to face top-seeded and unbeaten Old Orchard Beach (9-0) in the regional final Saturday.

Maranacook coach Skip Bessey, second from right, signs a poster of support for Lewiston following Maranacook’s 40-28 victory over Dirigo in an 8-man Small South semifinal in Dixfield on Tuesday. Lee Horton/Sun Journal

“We didn’t make enough plays tonight,” Cougars coach Craig Collins said. “They deserve to go on to play Old Orchard, and I wish them well.”

Dunn, a senior, ran for five scores and was the focal point of the Black Bears’ offense. However, he fumbled the ball away in the fourth quarter on Maranacook’s first play after Dirigo got within four points, 32-28, on a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Hudson Lufkin.

Wyatt Hamner, one of the few seniors on Dirigo’s roster, recovered the fumble at Maranacook’s 42-yard line with 5:19 left in the game.


“This past week he was a man on fire,” Maranacook coach Skip Bessey said of Dunn. “He’s always been the leader of the team, but this week it was like ultra focused. The ride up here was much different than the first ride up here (during the regular season), and you could see him on the field. I mean, he, on both sides of the ball, was just a man possessed, and he wasn’t going to be stopped.

“When he fumbled the ball, I thought, please don’t let it end like that.”

Maranacook had more passing and more rushing yards in the teams’ regular season meeting on Sept. 29, but Dirigo won 28-22.

Now, minutes after trailing by 10 points, the Cougars were down four points and had the ball — almost as if their destiny in 2023 was to beat Maranacook.

Lufkin led the Cougars into scoring position, the big play a 28-yard pass to Trevor Crosby down to the Black Bears’ 12.

Lufkin, who was moved to quarterback a few games into the season, continually made magic out of nearly impossible scenarios Tuesday, particularly third- and fourth-and-longs. This time, his third-and-long throw was intercepted by Crosby at the 10 and returned 60 yards to the Dirigo 30.


Dunn ran 9 yards on the first play and then 21 yards for the game’s final points with 2:03 remaining in the fourth.

Gabe Jacobs’ interception, which came a play after Dunn sacked Lufkin, sealed the victory.

“Owen definitely played very, very well on both sides of the ball,” Bessey said.


Dunn helped Maranacook take a quick 12-0 lead with a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter. Dunn scored his first TD and Robbie Vivenzio caught a long pass from quarterback Kody Goucher for another score.

In the regular season meeting against Dirigo, the Goucher-to-Vivenzio connection accounted for all three of the Black Bears’ touchdowns. They headed into this game expecting to ride Dunn.


“We expected Owen to do that well. We expected to be able to run the ball,” Bessey said. “I told Robbie — he’s a receiver, he likes to get the ball — I told him tonight, you’re probably not going to see it a lot because we should have a very good night on the ground, and we did.

“They’re very unselfish. They want to win two more games, whatever it takes.”

The Black Bears almost had Dirigo stopped on its second drive, but on fourth-and-11 from the Maranacook 17, Lufkin threw to Nathaniel Wainwright at the goal line. Wainwright caught the ball and kept his feet in bounds for the Cougars’ first score on the final play of the first quarter.

The second quarter was filled with each defense making a noble attempt but not being able to stop the opposing offense.

Maranacook took up nearly half of the quarter with the first possession of the period, which ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Dunn.

A 35-yard pass to Wainwright in Dirigo’s first possession of the quarter put the ball at the Black Bears’ 25.


Bessey said the Cougars’ passing game was unexpected and effective.

“They don’t normally throw the ball,” he said. “They usually throw a little hitch here and there, but I think they saw a weakness tonight and they exploited it, and it’s really what kept them in the game.”

Two plays later, Lufkin took the snap and ran 20 yards for a touchdown. Lufkin threw to Trevor Crosby on the two-point conversion to get Dirigo within two points, 18-16, despite scoring one less touchdown because the Cougars converted their first two two-point conversions while the Black Bears came up empty on their first three.

A 54-yard run by Dunn gave Maranacook a little more breathing room and a 26-16 advantage with 2:13 remaining in the first half.

Lufkin quickly led the Cougars down the field, the largest chunks gained on a 21-yard pass to Brady Philbrick and a 37-yard run by Lufkin.

An 11-yard pass to Wainwright put the ball at Maracook’s 1-yard line, and Lufkin scored from there, cutting Maranacook’s advantage to 26-22 with 31 seconds remaining in the half.


Dirigo got the ball back when Philbrick intercepted a pass with nine seconds left. The Cougars ran two plays but didn’t score.

A holding penalty pushed Dirigo back on the opening drive of the second half, and following three incomplete passes the Cougars had to punt the ball away.

Maranacook went on another long drive, this one punctuated by a 12-yard Dunn run that made the lead 32-22.

Both teams forced turnovers on downs early in the fourth.

Then Dirigo, after stopping Goucher’s QB run on fourth down, covered 65 yards on nine plays. Lufkin completed three passes to Wainwright and one to Philbrick before the freshman QB ran for his third score to get the Cougars within four points, 32-28, with 5:23 left in the game.

Lufkin finished with a touchdown pass and three TD runs.


Collins said Lufkin wasn’t expected to be the Cougars’ quarterback this year — something his No. 41 jersey seems to confirm. The linebacker took over after Dirigo’s 54-0 lost to Old Orchard Beach in Week 2, and led Dirigo to six consecutive wins heading into Tuesday’s game.

“He’s a good player, and I’m excited to have him the next three years,” Collins said.

Lufkin is one of several underclassmen who made huge contributions to the Cougars’ success this season. The future is bright, especially after Dirigo’s unexpected 7-2 season and second-place regular season finish following the graduation of several players who were key to last year’s regional final appearance.

“I thought we could do some good things, I just didn’t know how far we’d come,” Collins said.


The Black Bears, Bessey said, are looking forward to facing Old Orchard Beach again later this week. The Seagulls won the regular season matchup 66-19 on Oct. 6 when Maranacook became the first team to score on the defending state champions this season.

“Me and the coaches have been watching OOB film, and I think we’re going to give them a much better game than we did last time,” Bessey said.

Defense will be the key, but Bessey acknowledges, the game plan will need to be implemented quickly.

“I just think we need to do some stuff to slow them down offensively,” Bessey said, “which no team has really been able to do, but we have some stuff planned already. And then obviously we have a short turnaround here — a very short turnaround.”

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