PORTLAND, Maine — Trailing by two touchdowns late in the first half of their first appearance on the state championship stage, the Windham Eagles proved undeterred.
They fought back with a confidence-building touchdown just before intermission, leading to 28 unanswered points as the Southern Maine Activities Association champions surged past Bangor 35-21 in Saturday’s Class A football state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
“We’ve always been a resilient team, said Windham senior running back Jack Mallis, who scored four touchdowns and totaled 204 yards of total offense. “We’ve been playing together for a real long time, and we’ve always had to do things to get back on top, and that’s what we did.”
The state title was the first for Windham, which has fielded a high school football program for 11 years, the last seven at the Class A varsity level.
“Bangor’s a great team, but we play in the best conference and we battle week in and week out,” said Windham coach Matt Perkins. “We’re battle-tested. Going into halftime down by a touchdown, we’ve been in that situation before. You don’t go play [two-time defending state champion] Bonny Eagle twice and find a way to win and then fold at halftime.
“These guys know how to battle, and they’re the most resilient group I’ve ever seen.”
Mallis rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries and also had two receptions for 81 yards, including a 62-yard screen pass from senior quarterback Jackson Taylor that tied the game 61 seconds into the third quarter.
“We’ve been working on it all year,” said Taylor, who twice hooked up with Mallis on successful screen passes.
“We’ve run it in every game, and we emphasized it this week because Bangor was so big and physical. We felt we had chances to use it to get on the edge and get us going.”
Taylor completed 12 of 19 passes for 278 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“Their best players outplayed our best players today when they had to,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, whose team finished its season at 11-1. “And their coach outcoached our coach when he had to, so they win.”
Senior tailback Lonnie Hackett paced Bangor with 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Junior quarterback Joe Seccareccia rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, but completed just 4 of 11 passes for 49 yards with one interception as Windham held Bangor without a completed pass until the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t throw the ball early on them enough,” said coach Hackett. “They took the pass away, or we thought they took the pass away. We didn’t go to it much and then they were able to contain the rush.”
Bangor controlled the game’s outset from the line of scrimmage with senior tackle Tom Augustine anchoring an aggressive run defense, and the Rams took a 6-0 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Seccareccia around left end with 4:31 left in the first quarter.
That 10-play, 45-yard drive began when Seccareccia, also Bangor’s free safety, intercepted a Taylor pass during the Eagles’ first possession.
Bangor made it 14-0 on its next possession, marching 80 yards in 16 plays with Hackett scoring on a 3-yard run.
Hackett was the workhorse during the drive, carrying the ball 10 times for 46 yards.
Seccareccia then passed to Ethan Vance for the two-point conversion, giving Bangor a 14-0 lead with 5:37 left in the first half.
Windham badly needed a lift and got it before intermission, taking a short Bangor kickoff and driving 52 yards to draw within 14-7. Taylor bought time against Bangor’s pass rush on fourth-and-6 before finding Tucker Miller over the middle for a 14-yard scoring pass on fourth-and-6 with 1:13 left in the second quarter.
“That’s what changed the game,” said Taylor. “We were down in the dumps at that point, and Tuck made a great catch on that ball and that really got us going.
“Going into the locker room, we definitely had some swagger.”
The Eagles took the second-half kickoff and needed just three plays to score again, with Taylor finding Mallis open in the right flat for a screen pass and Mallis racing 62 yards to rally Windham to a 14-14 tie.
“It’s a play we practiced all week, and it helped us get the momentum on our side,” said Mallis.
That touchdown pass was the first of eight straight completions by Taylor covering 193 yards.
He found H-back Matt Gledhill for gains of 25 and 14 yards on Windham’s next possession to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Mallis that gave the Eagles a 21-14 lead with 7:05 left in the third period.
Hackett then fumbled at the end of a 49-yard run — a play that would have been negated by a holding penalty — and Windham’s Nick Burton recovered to set up a 75-yard drive.
Taylor found Gledhill down the right sideline behind the Bangor defense for a 40-yard gain and, one play later, Mallis took a pitch and raced left 21 yards to the end zone to extend the Eagles’ lead to 28-14 with 4:53 left in the period.
Bangor finally answered on its next possession, with Hackett scoring from 5 yards out to cut the gap to 28-21 with 15.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The teams then traded fourth-quarter possessions before Windham put the game away with a 51-yard march capped off by a 10-yard run by Mallis with 4:06 left.
“They just beat us, certainly in two phases and maybe all three phases in the game,” said coach Hackett. “I can’t think of a phase we won, but it was a hell of a game, and I’m proud of my kids. We competed hard, but they were just better than we were.
“I’d like to play them again, but you only get one chance.”