WINTHROP — Winthrop/Monmouth had enough time for three, maybe four plays to win Friday night’s Campbell Conference Class D clash with Dirigo in regulation.
The Ramblers also had the hope, however slim it might be, that senior speedster Bennett Brooks would draw single coverage on at least one of those plays.
It turned out that as long as they have hope, Brooks and senior QB Matt Ingram, the Ramblers sometimes only need one play.
Ingram found Brooks in one-on-one coverage and connected with him on a 44-yard touchdown pass with 16.3 seconds remaining as Winthrop/Monmouth survived a 14-6 defensive struggle with upset-minded Dirigo.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Matt and our other receivers drawing away the other defenders to set me up,” Brooks said. “I just had to run as fast as I can.”.
“This is great,” Ingram said. “Dirigo is a tough team. They’re really good and they came in ready to play us. We played tough, too.”
Dirigo (1-1) outplayed Winthrop/Monmouth (3-0) for most of the first half and held a 6-0 lead at intermission thanks to two early red zone stops by the defense.
The Ramblers tied it on their first drive of the second half, then had to come up with two turnovers — a fumble recovery by Jack Vickerson at his own 5 with 4:31 remaining and an interception by Nate Scott with 55 seconds left — to preserve the tie.
“We made plays when we needed to at the end, but we didn’t do much in between,” Winthrop coach Dave St. Hilaire said.
“We think we’re right there (with Winthrop/Monmouth),” said Dirigo coach Jim Hersom, whose team lists 22 players, including five seniors, on the roster, about half of what Winthrop/Monmouth has.
“We don’t care how many kids we’ve got. We don’t care how many seniors we’ve got. We’re tough,” Hersom said. “I’ve got a great coaching staff. We’re prepared and we’re going to give it a great effort every week.”
Scott had another interception near the end of the first half at the Ramblers’ 1-yard-line to keep the Cougars from taking a two-score lead into intermission.
The Ramblers found out how much fight the Cougars had in them early. Dirigo’s defense halted Rambler drives at its own 7 and 12 on its first two series, then held Winthrop/Monmouth without a first down the rest of the half.
“We’re a bend but don’t break defense. We dig in when we get down in the red zone,” Hersom said. “We’ve got a lot of courage and a lot of fight.”
After completing his first three passes, Ingram had nine straight incompletions.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t punch one of those two in,” St. Hilaire said. “If we had punched one of those two in, it might have been a different game for him.”
“It was difficult but you’ve just got to stay with it. You can’t give up or else you’re not going to have a shot,” Ingram said.
Dirigo got on the board first with an eight-play, 58-yard drive, all on the ground. Cooper Chiasson (14 carries, 62 yards) ran off right tackle from six yards out to make it 6-0 with 4:41 left in the half.
A Zac Wallace sack on Dirigo’s first offensive series of the second half helped put the Ramblers’ in good starting field position, the Cougars’ 41, for the game-tying drive.
Behind Scott (11 carries, 67 yards) and Alec Brown (15 carries, 79 yards), Winthrop/Monmouth stayed on the ground for all six plays of the drive, which Brown capped with a two-yard TD run. Bryce Whittemore blocked the ensuing extra point kick to keep it 6-6.
“In the second half, we came out ready to play,” Ingram said. “We got the running game going.”