DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy Ponies built a seven-point halftime lead and then held on in the game’s final minute to outlast defending state champion John Bapst of Bangor 14-13 in the LTC Class C football final at Oakes Field on Saturday.
The win earned top-ranked and undefeated Foxcroft (11-0) its sixth Eastern Maine title in the last eight years, and advances coach Danny White’s club to next Saturday’s state championship game against Dirigo of Dixfield at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
Dirigo (11-0) defeated Yarmouth 41-7 in Saturday’s Western C final.
Game time for the Class C state final is expected to be announced Monday.
Second-ranked John Bapst ended its season with a 9-2 record.
Foxcroft senior quarterback Ryan Stroud rushed for one touchdown and passed for another score, his 28th touchdown pass of the season. Senior tailback Ian Champeon added 78 yards on 16 carries, while senior flanker Josiah Richard had four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Senior tailback Bill Wetherbee, who led the LTC in rushing with 1,725 yards entering the game, added 162 yards to that total on 32 carries for John Bapst. He also scored the Crusaders’ lone touchdown.
Stroud’s 1-yard scoring run and a successful extra-point kick by Richard gave Foxcroft a 7-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
That 71-yard march featured a 24-yard pass from Stroud to Robbie Harmon, and an 11-yard completion from Stroud to Richard on fourth-and-6 from the John Bapst 41.
John Bapst answered on its next possession, marching 65 yards in six plays with Wetherbee scoring on a 7-yard run and Mark Dieuveuil adding the extra point. A 40-yard run by quarterback Shane Hass set up the touchdown, which tied the game with 2:18 left in the opening period.
Foxcroft made it 14-7 on its next possession when Stroud found Richard open behind two defenders for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 11:18 left in the first half and Richard followed with the extra-point kick.
The touchdown pass came just two plays after Stroud and Richard combined on a 16-yard completion on a fake punt with Foxcroft facing fourth-and-2 at its 44-yard line.
The game grew into a fierce defensive struggle after intermission, though John Bapst controlled the football for much of the final two periods.
The Crusaders drove to the Foxcroft 25 on their first possession of the third quarter before a halfback option pass by Wetherbee was intercepted by the Ponies’ Chase Hutchinson.
John Bapst threatened again late in the fourth quarter, as Max Andrews tipped a pass to himself to complete a 32- yard gain to help the Crusaders move into Foxcroft territory before the drive eventually stalled on three straight Hass incompletions from the 13-yard line.
Foxcroft regained possession with 2:25 left, but was unable to run out the clock as Champeon fumbled three plays later and John Bapst’s Fred Lear made the recovery. Foxcroft also was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, giving John Bapst possession at the FA 15 with 1:08 remaining.
Wetherbee raced to the 1 on the next play, then Hass snuck into the end zone with 59 seconds left, but Dieuveuil’s extra-point kick was just wide to leave Foxcroft clinging to a one-point lead.
The subsequent onside kick went out of bounds, and Foxcroft then ran out the clock.
Foxcroft will be seeking its third state title of the decade, winning it all in 2003 and 2007.