April 24, 2018
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Cougars overcome deficits to top Ponies


PORTLAND, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy Ponies tried five different individual matchups and three different defensive schemes, but in the end, they could only grudgingly doff their helmets to Dirigo’s Federal Express-like airmail offense.

There was no stopping the passing pairing of quarterback Nick Crutchfield and offensive end Alex Miele as the Dirigo of Dixfield duo hooked up nine times for 209 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Cougars to a 37-20 Class C state title victory on an unseasonably balmy Saturday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“I knew they’d never seen anything like Nick Crutchfield up north so we just unleashed him,” said Dirigo head coach Doug Gilbert.

They’d never seen anything like Miele either.

“He gave us fits all game,” said Ponies coach Danny White. “We just couldn’t seem to cover him and we ran four or five different guys at him along with three different looks and he kept making plays.”

None bigger than his first three catches, the first of which went for 72 yards down the left side followed by a 9-yard touchdown pass on the run to the left corner of the end zone with 6:42 into the game, and then a 74-yard TD strike on third-and-13 with 24 seconds left in the opening quarter.

“I thought the play-action passes would work on them and they did,” said Gilbert. “The first ones that we called were all run action. He [Miele] adjusted his patterns real well. On one, he was supposed to run a slant and saw the guy was covering him on the inside so he broke it outside.”

Miele’s second TD catch made it 14-14, but Foxcroft, which had scored on its first two possessions, did so again with a seven-play, 74-yard drive to make it 20-14 with 9:32 left in the first half. It would be the last time the 11-1 Ponies would cross the goal line.

Two possessions later, Dirigo took its first lead with a six-play, 33-yard drive aided by a big defensive stand that pinned the Ponies back at their own 7-yard line before they punted. Of the 33 yards in the drive, 31 came on pass completions to Miele. Tyler Chaisson’s 2-yard TD run was the only other positive yardage play.

“They didn’t have success running the ball, but that deep ball killed us almost every time,” said FA running back/linebacker Ian Champeon.

After being held to 18 yards on nine carries in the first half, the Cougars rebounded with 108 yards on 26 carries in the second.

Although the 12-0 Cougars would score 13 unanswered points in the second half, Gilbert pointed to their 25-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the first half as the key play.

“It only put us up four, but it was big, especially with us getting the ball to start the second half,” Gilbert said.

Crutchfield would finish with 255 yards and three touchdowns on 12-for-23 passing with one interception, and also ran for another 41 yards. Miele had 209 yards on nine receptions.

As important as Dirigo’s offense was in the first half, it was defense that made the difference in the second. The Cougars held FA to 70 total yards (23 rushing and 47 passing) in the second half.

“We started switching it up. We were running a 4-4 [down linemen and linebackers alignment] and they started getting used to that, so we switched to a 5-2,” Gilbert said.

“They brought their defensive ends so wide, our tackles and backs weren’t able to get to them in time,” said FA quarterback Ryan Stroud. “We were going to let them do that and I was going to step up in the pocket and that worked early on, but I got injured on a punt play and I couldn’t get out of the pocket like I normally can after that.”

After punting the ball late in the second quarter, Stroud went down and put a good hit on the return man, but was spun around on the hit.

“My leg buckled under. I hurt my shin or calf,” Stroud explained. “At first it didn’t bother me, but it stiffened up a little in halftime and when I was standing around it was giving me issues.”

Champeon led the Ponies with 80 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Stroud threw for 175 yards and ran for the other score.

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