ORONO, Maine — With Orono High’s football field slightly resembling a mud pit, Friday’s LTC battle between Stearns of Millinocket and the Red Riots was no doubt going to be won in the trenches.
It turns out the difference in this one was a touchdown reception and an interception return for a score.
Blaine Silk was on the end of both of those scores, as he hauled in a TD pass at the end of the first half and returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to salt away a 20-8 victory for the Red Riots on homecoming night.
Both teams are now 3-2.
Stearns, which trailed 14-8 with 2:57 to play, drove as far as the Orono 47. With less than a minute to play, the Riots’ interior line flushed Minutemen QB Jared McGreevy out of the pocket, forcing a hurried throw. Silk picked it off and scampered 55 yards down the right sideline to put the game away.
“[Our line] came up and forced the QB to hurry up and throw the ball and he tried to get the ball away but I was right there,” said Silk, who contributed to Orono’s 222-yard rushing effort with 60 yards on 13 carries.
The game was sloppy in the early going, with both teams struggling to hold on to the ball amidst a scoreless first quarter.
The Riots’ first four possessions ended in a fumble, punt, fumble and interception, but they would get on the board just before the half.
Coach Bob Sinclair’s club marched 80 yards in just seven plays, culminating in Kash Keezer’s lob pass to Silk in the right corner of the end zone.
Brandon LeVasseur ran in the two-point conversion to give the Riots an 8-0 lead at halftime.
Orono had a chance to extend the lead on its second drive of the third, but the stingy Stearns “D” stopped the Riots on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
“Their kids are real tough kids, coach [Chris] Preble does a good job … they’re just good, hard-nosed Millinocket kids,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair’s defense, however, would strike gold two plays later, as Ben Perry recovered a Stearns fumble in the end zone.
Preble’s Minutemen bounced right back, however, driving 56 yards in 12 plays. That march featured a heavy dose of junior tailback Billy Eurich, who scored on a second-and-goal play from five yards out and ran in the two-point conversion.
Orono’s defense stiffened after that, forcing Stearns into a punt and two interceptions on its final three drives.
“Our team showed a lot of heart, we played hard all night,” said Orono senior two-way tackle Jake Paul. “Our defensive line played great, we got pressure on the QB, forced him to make bad throws.”
“We played strong up front and the scoreboard shows,” concurred Silk.
With a solid number of Crabtree points on the line, this was a huge win for the Riots.
“They’re a fantastic team. They beat [Mattanawcook] so this is a big win for us,” Silk said.
LeVasseur recorded two interceptions for Orono while Perry led the ground attack with 92 yards on 13 carries.
Eurich paced Stearns with 65 yards on 12 rushes while Charlie Osborne and Cory Barnett netted 44 yards apiece.