LINCOLN, Maine — John Bapst of Bangor started Friday night’s LTC Class C football game against Mattanawcook Academy with a flurry, but needed a defensive stand with 18 seconds left to pull out a victory.
The Crusaders improved to 3-1 with an 18-15 victory over the 2-2 Lynx, who fell nine yards short of victory at Curry Field.
Bapst quarterback Derek Smith completed 14 of 23 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Crusaders’ offense, but it was his defense that preserved the win.
Smith snatched a last-gasp, fourth-down pass from scrambling MA quarterback Josh Pelkey out of the air at the JB 7-yard line and returned it five yards before being tackled with 18 seconds left to snuff out a 12-play, 49-yard drive by the Lynx lasting 3 minutes and 26 seconds.
“I was on the other side of the field and I saw Max (Andrews) rushing the quarter-back, so I knew he was going to sprint out to the right, so I just played it as a free safety would and came over with him,” Smith said.
Andrews supplied the pressure that forced Pelkey out of the pocket and sent him running to the right.
“I shot toward the quarterback, the running back missed me when I curved to the left, and I just followed him,” said Andrews, who had the other two of Bapst’s three interceptions in the game.
The Crusaders’ freshman linebacker had about three weeks’ worth of defensive highlight plays. Andrews returned his first interception for 17 yards and a touchdown with 10:24 left in the first quarter to give Bapst a 6-0 lead. His second foiled a long MA drive to the JB-15 with 3:07 left in the first.
The Crusaders made it 12-0 with 9:26 left in the second quarter courtesy of a 15-play, 81-yard drive capped by a 7-yard TD pass from Smith to Shane Hass.
The Lynx made adjustments on the fly and rebounded quickly, answering the second Bapst score by taking advantage of a Crusaders’ turnover. A fumbled punt return gave the Lynx the ball at the JB-13 and they turned that into a touchdown four plays later as Pelkey found Shawn Cahill in the right corner of the end zone with 5:14 left in the half.
The Lynx made it 13-12 with 5:04 left in the third quarter after Kyle Epp, one of three MA quarterbacks used regularly, hit Cahill for a 10-yard TD pass to cap a 59-yard, 10-play drive. MA added some insurance with 9:12 left in the game as Greg Hand blocked his second Bapst punt of the game and JB’s Smith was tackled in the end zone for a safety after he recovered the ball.
“I have to be honest and say the kids bailed me out tonight,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “I mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half and we tried to do a couple things we’re not used to doing on the fly, and I couldn’t be more proud of the kids because I feel they picked me up.”
The Lynx were led by running back Brady Vose, who rushed for a game-high 77 yards on 20 carries.
Vose also distinguished himself defensively by shadowing Bapst multi-purpose back Billy Wetherbee, who torched MA for 62 yards on four catches in the first half. With Vose on him, along with a few other MA teammates, Wetherbee had no catches in the second half.
So Hass stepped in and snared the last three receptions of the game for a total of 61 yards.
“It was a chess match and they mixed it up well,” said MA coach Dave Hainer. “We practiced with Brady on Wetherbee during the week and when Wetherbee went into the backfield, he became a linebacker, but they lined Wetherbee up at receiver, which surprised us. So in the second half we had Brady go with him when he was wide and in the slot.
“That slowed down his receiving, but unfortunately they had others. We had guys covered, but you have to give them credit. They made nice catches and their quarterback made some perfect throws.”