HAMPDEN, Maine — Hampden Academy’s Broncos came into Friday night’s Pine Tree Conference Class B showdown with Waterville wanting to pound the ball and make a statement about their run game.
After finding the rushing yards hard to come by against a stingy and stubborn Waterville defense loading up against the run, the Broncos did indeed make a statement — with their passing attack.
The run-oriented, grind-it-out Broncos bucked their offensive trend and scored 18 points — 12 via the pass — in a dizzying 2½-minute span in the third quarter that turned a ground game into an aerial show and led Hampden to a 39-14 victory.
The battle of fellow purple-and-white-clad 4-2 teams likely gave the 5-2 Broncos at least one home game in the PTC B playoffs.
“That’s the good thing about our teams is we’re well-rounded,” said Nolan Turner, who scored four straight touchdowns for the Broncos. “We wanted to make a statement about being able to pound the ball, but they did a good job defending us by overloading sides and playing physical, so we decided to take a chance and throw it up there.”
Hampden looked more like a run-and-shoot offense as Turner capped a three-play scoring drive by hauling in a sideline pattern pass against single coverage on 3rd-and-7 and racing 82 yards for a score to make it 13-7 Hampden with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
Waterville answered with a four-play, 36-yard drive set up by Peter Cote’s 46-yard kickoff return and capped by Kris Huggins’ 22-yard TD run off a broken tackle to retake the lead 14-13 74 seconds later, but the jubilation was short-lived as Turner took the ensuing kickoff and sped 87 yards untouched to make it 19-14 Broncos with 4:23 left in the quarter.
Even Turner was shocked by the special teams strike.
“It’s funny because right before that on the previous kickoff, they crushed us on the wedge,” the senior wingback said. “We were trying to go right up the middle and I was telling coach the wedge wasn’t there, but he said ‘we’re going to do it anyway. We watched film on it.’
“We backed it up a little to get a little more blocking and it worked perfectly. I didn’t even get touched.”
Waterville coach Frank Knight called it the game’s pivotal play.
“Right after we scored and went ahead, that kickoff return really took the wind out of us,” he said. “That return was just a dagger in us.”
Turner wasn’t done, however, as he caught a pass at the back of the end zone on 3rd-and-10 to account for all 35 yards in the three-play scoring drive and then hauled in a slant pass on the right side and turned it into a 56-yard TD reception to make it 32-14 with 10:21 left in the game.
“We wanted to play some smash-mouth football so we knew we’d catch them off guard by throwing a few long passes,” said Hampden quarterback Jonathan Haws.
Hampden’s junior quarterback completed 5 of 8 passes with no interceptions for a career-best 200 yards. He also ran for 28 yards.
“We’ve known we could throw all season, but we haven’t really gone to the passing game before now,” said Hampden coach Harry McCluskey. “We kind of wanted to let our kids see what we could do in the second half because our line’s been pounding people all year, but we took a couple shots deep and our line gave Jon all kinds of time back there.”
That would be the line of center Davis Rawcliffe, guards Evan Sinclair and Richard Hoch, and tackles Tyler Poll and Caleb O’Donald along with tight ends Coplin Fickett and Cody Miller, which also helped pave the way for 194 rushing yards.
“We did a great job shutting down their run game after changing our defense up a little, but we had a couple costly turnovers and they scored on big plays,” said Knight, whose team generated 242 yards of total offense.