Cheverus falls in final seconds to Edward Little

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Cheverus sophomore Sean Tompkins hauls in a 52-yard touchdown pass to give the Stags’ a 20-7 first quarter lead over Edward Little Saturday afternoon. Cheverus wouldn’t score again, however, and the Red Eddies rallied for a 26-20 victory.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Edward Little 26 Cheverus 20

EL- 7 13 0 6- 26
C- 20 0 0 0- 20

First quarter
C- Coffin 15 run (Harris kick)
C- Coffin 38 interception return (Harris kick)
EL- Hartley 3 run (Ouellette kick)
C- Tompkins 52 pass from Conant (kick blocked)

Second quarter
EL- Thomas 37 pass from Bell (Ouellette kick)
EL- Bell 7 pass from Hartley (kick blocked)

Third quarter
No scoring

Fourth quarter
EL- Hartley 1 run (kick blocked)

PORTLAND—Cheverus’ football team has made impressive strides in a short time this fall, but the Stags’ quest to take the next step Saturday afternoon at Boulos Stadium ran into a frustrating roadblock in the form of the Edward Little Red Eddies.

In a pivotal early-season contest, the undefeated Red Eddies, who were coming off a win over defending regional champion Portland last week, looked to come to the big city and knock off another perennial contender, while Cheverus hoped to go back over the .500 mark and establish itself as a favorite in a very balanced region.

The game began more like Christmas morning than mid-September, as on three straight drives, Edward Little gave the Stags the gift of a turnover and as a result, Cheverus was able to open up an early lead.

After senior Finn Cawley’s interception gave the Stags a short field, senior Max Coffin opened the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run.

Coffin then scored a defensive touchdown for the second week in a row, intercepting Red Eddies senior quarterback Grant Hartley and bringing it back 38 yards for a score and a 14-0 lead.

Cheverus then allowed Edward Little to get back in the game with a fumble at its 9-yard line and Hartley bulled in from the 3 to cut the deficit in half after one quarter.

Late in the first period, the Stags returned to their scoring ways, as senior quarterback Perrin Conant hit sophomore Sean Tompkins with a 52-yard scoring pass. The extra point was blocked, but with 2:45 to go in the opening stanza, the lead was 20-7.

Cheverus wouldn’t score again the final 38 minutes, 45 seconds.

The Red Eddies would draw even by halftime, as senior Maxx Bell connected with senior Terrell Thomas for a 37-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option and just before the break, Hartley found Bell for a 7-yard scoring completion, making the score, 20-20.

The Stags were able to move the ball in the second half, but couldn’t complete a drive.

Cheverus chewed up nearly nine minutes on one drive which spanned the end of the third period and the first half of the fourth, but couldn’t retake the lead.

After the teams traded punts, Edward Little got the ball back at the Stags’ 46 with 1:23 to play and a dazzling fingertip catch by Bell set the visitors up at the 4. Two plays later, Hartley bulled in from the 1 and with 27.1 seconds remaining, the Red Eddies led for the first time, 26-20.

Cheverus got close enough to attempt a final desperation pass, but it fell short and Edward Little got out of town with a key victory.

The Red Eddies improved to 3-0 and dropped the Stags to 1-2, saddling Cheverus with its first sub-.500 mark at this stage of the season since 2007 in the process.

“The guys stepped up,” said Edward Little coach Dave Sterling. “We knew going on the road that it would be hard. I can’t talk enough about how much of a team effort this was. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We had injuries and we had other guys step up. We had great leadership from our captains.”

“Edward Little was tough,” said Stags coach Mike Vance. “They’re a good team. They’re physical. This is how we want to play. The kids are disappointed we didn’t win.”

Building block

Edward Little had earned a lot of buzz entering Saturday’s game and for good reason. The Red Eddies opened with a 44-0 win at Bangor, then held off the rally of defending regional champion Portland in their home opener to prevail, 24-16.

Cheverus, meanwhile, started with a 24-0 clunker at Windham, then bounced back in a big way with a 42-0 home blanking of Bangor. 

Since being reclassified into Eastern Class A (now Class A North), the Stags have been successful against Edward Little. Last year, Cheverus held on for a 17-14 win in Auburn. In 2013, the Stags rolled at home, 48-0. Three years ago, Cheverus took a 41-7 decision at the Red Eddies. In 2015, the Stags won, 44-7, at home.

This time around, on a sizzling afternoon which left several players from both teams cramping up, Cheverus appeared en route to another victory, but Edward Little roared back to continue its sizzling start.

The Stags won the opening coin toss and deferred possession to the second half, giving the Red Eddies the first chance on offense, but the visitors only ran two plays before giving the ball away.

After senior Caden Begos, who entered the game third in the region in rushing yards, ran for one yard, he picked up four more, but fumbled the ball and Cheverus sophomore Sean Sullivan recovered, setting up the Stags at the Edward Little 37.

Cheverus couldn’t capitalize, however, as after being backed up five yards for a false start, junior Teigan Lindstedt ran for five yards, Coffin, who came in as the league’s fourth-top rusher, was held to no gain by Bell and on third-and-10, Conant was sacked by Bell and the Stags had to punt.

The Red Eddies got the ball back at their 20 and after Hartley, who entered the game as the league’s leading passer, was sacked for a 10-yard loss by senior Bobby Holzhacker, Begos ran for eight yards and Hartley’s pass was intercepted by senior Finn Cawley, who returned the ball 10 yards to the Edward Little 24.

This time, Cheverus would turn the turnover into points, needing just three plays and 1 minute, 38 seconds to march to the game’s first score.

Coffin ran for two yards and Lindstedt picked up seven. On third-and-1 from the 15, Coffin got the ball again and burst through a hole on the left side. He didn’t stop until he ran into the end zone and after junior Cam Harris added the extra point, with 5:50 left in the opening quarter, the Stags had a 7-0 lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the Red Eddies the next time they had the ball, as after an incomplete pass, Hartley threw again and Coffin picked it off at the Edward Little 38 and raced down the sideline untouched to the end zone for a touchdown. Harris’ PAT made it 14-0 Cheverus with 5:28 to play in the first.

The Red Eddies didn’t turn the ball over on their next series, but the Stags continued to ride their momentum, forcing a punt.

Edward Little earned its initial first down, as Hartley hit Thomas for a dozen yards, but Hartley threw incomplete, scrambled for five yards, then was sacked by Sullivan for a two-yard loss.

With 3:43 to go in the first, Cheverus took over at its 9, but disaster struck, as a fumbled center exchange was pounced upon by Red Eddies senior Justin Theriault.

That was the break Edward Little needed to jump-start its attack and after Hartley moved the pile to the 3, he kept the ball again and carried a defender into the end zone for the touchdown. Senior Curtis Ouellette added the extra point and the Red Eddies were back within 14-7 with 2:59 still to go in the first.

The Stags got good field position to start their next drive when Lindstedt returned the kickoff to the 43. After Cheverus was backed up five yards for being offsides, Conant faked a handoff, dropped back and lofted a pass to a wide-open Tompkins, who had gotten open behind the defense on a crossing route. All Tompkins had to do was haul the ball in before waltzing to the end zone to complete a 52-yard touchdown reception. Harris’ PAT was blocked, but with 2:45 left in the quarter, Cheverus was again ahead by two scores, 20-7.

Edward Little would march into Stags’ territory on its next drive, as Bell ran for five yards, then for six and after senior Nate Dunn held Begos to one yard, Hartley scrambled for five yards to the Cheverus 49. On third-and-4, Hartley hit senior Xzabier Weaver for three yards, but on fourth down, Hartley was brought down just inches short of the sticks to give the Stags the ball on downs at their 45.

On the final play of the first quarter, Lindstedt ran for a yard, giving Cheverus a 76-47 edge in yardage in the first 12 minutes. Coffin was then thrown for a three-yard loss by Thomas and Conant threw incomplete, forcing a punt.

With 11:07 left in the half, the Red Eddies started at their 33, but again the Stags forced a three-and-out and a punt, as Hartley sandwiched incomplete passes around a three-yard run by Begos.

Cheverus wasn’t able to go anywhere, however, as Lindstedt was held to no gain, Conant threw incomplete and Coffin’s three-yard run on third-and-10 forced a punt, which Bell returned 18 yards to the Stags’ 37.

This time, Edward Little needed just one play to get right back in the game and what a play it was.

Hartley pitched the ball to Bell, who instead of running, stepped up and launched a pass deep downfield toward Thomas. Cheverus junior defensive back Akera Oryem leaped for the ball, but couldn’t touch it and Thomas cradled it before strolling into the end zone to complete a 37-yard touchdown play.

“We kept that in our pocket,” Sterling said. “You like to use that against a team that you think you can catch over-pursuing. We hoped we’d catch them and we got lucky.”

Ouellette added the PAT to cut the Stags’ lead to 20-14 with 8:34 to go in the half.

After the kickoff went out of bounds, Cheverus started at its 40 and looked to answer. A one-yard Coffin run and a four-yard pass from Conant to Tompkins set up third-and-5, where Coffin got free for seven yards to move the chains. After Lindstedt ran for seven more to the Edward Little 41, a holding penalty backed the Stags up. Coffin ran for nine yards, but out of a timeout, Cheverus was flagged five yards for having 12 men on the field, then were flagged for five more for a false start. Coffin ran for six yards on third-and-14, but Cheverus had to punt again.

With 4:11 left in the half, the Red Eddies started at their 32 and they would embark on an 11-play drive with chewed up most of the clock before they pulled even.

A 10-yard burst on a jet sweep to the right by junior Joshua Hamel got things started. After Bell ran for 16 more, Stags senior Zeb Leavitt threw Begos for a one-yard loss, but Hamel got the ball on a jet sweep to the left and gained 15 yards to the Cheverus 28. After Begos picked up five, Hartley hit Weaver for four and on third-and-1, Begos gained three yards and a Stags’ facemask penalty tacked on five more to the 11. After Begos ran for three yards and Hartley threw incomplete, Begos gained a yard to the 7, setting up fourth-and-6 with under a minute left. 

Sterling elected to eschew the field goal and go for six and it paid off, as Hartley hit Bell in the left corner of the end zone and Lindstedt couldn’t quite reach the ball to knock it away. Cheverus sophomore Gavin Callahan blocked the extra point, but with 27.4 seconds remaining in the half, the contest was deadlocked, 20-20.

The Stags got the ball at their 28, but took a knee and the game went to halftime.

In the first half, Edward Little had 155 yards to Cheverus’ 88. The Stags were hindered by five penalties for 30 yards.

The second half would be a battle of attrition until one huge Red Eddies’ play in the final minute proved to be the difference.

Cheverus got the ball to start the second half and began at its 40 after the kickoff went out of bounds. The Stags then drove into Edward Little territory, as Coffin ran for four-yards, then five, and Lindstedt picked up four to move the chains. After Coffin ran for six yards, Lindstedt gained one and on third-and-3, Coffin cut back and gained five yards for a first down at the 35. Coffin picked up three more, but a bad snap gave the yards back and on third-and-10, Thomas not only sacked Conant, but he stripped him of the ball and pounced on the loose pigskin at the 41.

The Red Eddies would give it right back, however, as after Hartley made a nice throw on the run to Hamel for 16 yards, Sullivan strip-sacked Hartley and Leavitt recovered at the Stags’ 48 midway through the third quarter.

Cheverus again drove for what it hoped would be the go-ahead score, but again would be frustrated.

After Conant hit Lindstedt for 14 yards to the Edward Little 38, Cawley ran for three yards, but a block in the back penalty backed the Stags up and Lindstedt was dropped for a two-yard loss by Begos and on third-and-20, Lindstedt only picked up five.

Tompkins’ punt pinned the Red Eddies at their 12.

Cheverus got the ball right back as Hartley threw three incomplete passes and with 2:38 on the clock, the Stags took over at their 5.

Cheverus would retain the ball for nearly nine minutes, but ultimately had nothing to show for it.

After Coffin ran for nine yards and Lindstedt lost one, Coffin moved the chains with a five-yard scamper. Cawley then ran for 10 yards and gained seven more on the final play of the quarter and as the fourth period began, the Stags had the ball at their 35.

After Coffin ran for three yards to set up third-and-inches, Coffin gained the yard to move the chains. After an incomplete pass, Coffin ran for eight yards, then picked up nine more to the Red Eddies’ 44. Cawley then ran for nine yards before gaining four more for a first down at the 31. Two Coffin carries didn’t gain a yard and on third-and-10, Lindstedt only picked up three yards to the 28. After keeping the ball for 8 minutes, 48 seconds, Cheverus decided to punt and the boot only went eight yards, giving Edward Little possession at its 20 with 5:50 to play.

The Red Eddies would pick up one first down, as Hartley kept the ball for four yards and Hamel gained seven more to the 31, but after Hartley ran for four yards, the twice threw incomplete and with 3:42 left in regulation, the Stags got the ball back at their 20.

Again, a penalty proved costly, as a hold backed Cheverus up 12 yards. After Coffin ran for six yards, Lindstedt gained three, but on third-and-13, Coffin was held to a nine-yard gain and the Stags again had to punt.

After another short punt, Edward Little started at the Cheverus 46 with 1:23 to play and at last, the Red Eddies would find their way to the end zone again.

After Hartley hit Weaver with a pass that wound up losing four yards due to a nice tackle by Coffin, Hartley dropped back again and lofted a bomb down the right sideline. Bell ran free behind the secondary, but initially, it looked as if the ball was overthrown. Bell wouldn’t be denied, however, catching up to the pass and catching it with his fingertips before finally being tackled at the 4 with 42.4 seconds on the clock.

“It’s just a matter of reps,” Bell said. “All the work we put in, we don’t give up. Grant and I have had great timing since seventh grade. It was just focus.”

“I’ve got to try and throw it towards the sideline so only he can catch it,” Hartley said. “We repped it out in practice and finally it came together on that play. I don’t think it could have gone much better than that.”

“That was a designed play we’ve worked on all week,” Sterling added. “Maxx is a very good athlete in open space. We try to get our best athlete the ball in that situation.”

Edward Little could have milked the clock and kicked a field goal to win it, but instead, the Red Eddies went for the dagger of a touchdown.

After Hartley moved the pile to the 1, he kept the ball again and bulled in on the left side of the line with 27.1 seconds to play. Cheverus junior Vic Morrone blocked the extra point, but Edward Little led for the first time, 26-20.

The Stags started at their 30 with 25.2 seconds left and Conant immediately hit Coffin for 15 yards to the 45. Conant spiked the ball to stop the clock, then threw a bomb that was barely out of the reach of Tompkins. Then, as time wound down, Conant threw a long pass down the field which fell incomplete, but a pass interference penalty was called and Cheverus got the ball at the Red Eddies’ 40 with time for one final untimed play. Conant dropped back, was pressured and rolled to his left before throwing a prayer near the end zone which fell short of Oryem and hit the ground, bringing the curtain down on Edward Little’s 26-20 victory.

“We just threw it the play before and they interfered, so we tried to do it again,” Vance said.

The Red Eddies then celebrated a huge victory.

“We didn’t give up and focused the whole game,” Bell said. “Guys are well-conditioned more than ever.”

“Our guys have persevered,” Sterling said. “We had a hard preseason. We conditioned them and told them it would be hard. We had a game in Bangor two years ago when they called back a touchdown to win the game and we had to go back and do it again to win. Some of these guys were sophomores and knew we had to bounce back today.”

Edward Little finished with 225 yards and overcame four turnovers and four penalties for 30 yards.

Hartley ran eight times for 29 yards and two touchdowns and completed 7-of-17 passes for 84 yards, one TD and two interceptions. 

Bell ran four times for 31 yards, passed once for a 37-yard touchdown and caught two passes for 53 yards and a score.

Begos was held to 31 yards on 11 carries.

Thomas caught two balls for 49 yards and a TD.

Cheverus had 219 yards of offense, but was flagged seven times for 53 yards and turned the ball over twice.

Coffin led the way with 113  yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. He also caught one pass for 15 yards.

Lindstedt gained 33 yards on 13 rushes and caught one ball for 14 yards. 

Cawley ran five times for 33 yards.

Conant wound up 4-of-9 passing for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Tompkins had two receptions for 56 yards and a TD.

“No way to lose is good, but this was tough,” Vance lamented. “They were just a couple plays better today than we were. We couldn’t deliver the knockout punch. They gave us an easy one and we gave them a couple easy ones. I think that was the difference. Penalties hurt us. It was a gritty game and we played hard. We just didn’t come up with it at the end. We had a chance.”

Work to do

Edward Little looks to keep the good times rolling when 2-1 Oxford Hills pays a visit Friday night.

“It’s a new look for the Red Eddies and hopefully we can keep building,” Bell said. “We’re on to Oxford Hills.”

“This is huge, but our guys have to stay focused,” Sterling said. “We had two good wins before this. To come back from the adversity and win today is even better for our momentum and character building. We know what it means to get down and come back.

“It doesn’t get any easier. It’s Class A football. Oxford Hills is a very good, power run football team, much like the team we played today. We’ll enjoy this for a few hours, then we’ll get back at it.”

Cheverus, meanwhile, has the daunting task of going to 3-0 Thornton Academy, a squad which enjoyed a 65-0 rout at the host Stags’ expense a year ago and is coming off a huge road win over Scarborough Friday night.

“We just have to improve and get better,” Vance said. “I’m seeing steady growth. We’re trying to create as much depth as we can. The kids are learning. We’ll see what happens.”

Sun Journal staff writer Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Edward Little junior Joshua Kaiser tackles Cheverus senior Max Coffin.

Cheverus senior Bobby Holzhacker brings down Edward Little junior Joshua Hamel.

Edward Little senior quarterback Grant Hartley takes Cheverus junior Akera Oryem for a ride.

Cheverus sophomore Sean Tompkins, playing defense, knocks down an Edward Little pass.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001.
Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net.
I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.