PORTLAND — When Taylor Bradley dislocated his right shoulder on a punt return early in Saturday’s Class B state football championship, the decision was a no-brainer for the Mountain Valley senior.
Pop it back in, and get back on the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf.
It turns out that was a wise decision for Bradley, who rushed for 132 yards and a game-clinching touchdown while the Falcons’ trademark defense posted its eighth shutout of the season to claim its fourth gold ball in seven years with a 20-0 victory over defending state champion Leavitt of Turner Saturday.
Bradley had a little help from above on his 66-yard fourth-quarter scamper on a direct snap from friend, classmate and former teammate Danny Garneau, a former Mountain Valley player who died of leukemia in April.
“He was just on my mind the entire time. I was just thinking, this one’s for you,” said Bradley, who helped coach Jim Aylward’s club polish off a 12-0 season.
Leavitt finished 11-1.
The Falcons entered the contest having only given up 30 points in 11 games and held the Hornets to 126 yards of offense, many of those after the game had been decided.
Mountain Valley’s defense set the tone on the first series of the contest, with Cameron Kaubris intercepting a Jordan Hersom pass on the game’s third play, and the Falcons turned it into points four plays later.
Known for their running game, MV turned to the air on its opening drive on this blustery afternoon, with Kaubris lofting a perfect pass down the near sideline to Christian Durland, and the big tight end ran under it to give the Falcons a 6-0 advantage.
Even though the Falcons struggled to generate any more offense after that for the remainder of the half, they constantly pinned the Hornets deep in their own territory on punts while MV’s worst starting field position of the first half was its own 14, when it ran out the clock with two rushes.
“We talked about how we wanted to win all three phases of the game today,” said Aylward.
Mountain Valley was turned away at the L-5 early in the second quarter, but the Falcons forced the Hornets to punt at their own 14 and were set up at the L-38, and needed only nine plays to find the end zone, with Kaubris bulling his way in from one yard out, and his two-point conversion rush gave the Falcons a 14-0 lead at halftime.
Leavitt was held to a paltry 21 yards of offense in the first half, with the Falcons’ defensive ends and linebackers using their quickness to counter that of the Hornets.
“I thought they defeated blocks really well. We had guys on them but not for long enough. They did a good job of just defeating their blocks and getting guys to the football,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said.
The Hornets couldn’t get quarterback Hersom and standout tailback Jake Ouellette untracked.
“We wanted to put those guys in some space. They’re just so solid all the way over the field defensively, we weren’t able to do that,” Hathaway said.
Leavitt’s best chance to get back in the contest came late in the third quarter and into the fourth, when the Hornets penetrated to the Falcons’ 30.
But Hersom was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Ryan Glover, with Justin White helping, on the final play of the third quarter and the Hornets eventually turned it over on downs.
One play later, Bradley, who played his junior season at Skowhegan, scampered unmolested to paydirt and the celebration was on for a Mountain Valley club which had endured a lot of heartbreak with Garneau’s death last spring.
“It really became a no-brainer for his family last April when Danny passed away that Taylor needed to be with his friends for his senior year,” said Aylward.
Aylward was very impressed with his defense against a Leavitt club that piled up points consistently in Pine Tree Conference Class B play.
“I believe statistically Leavitt probably has more offensvive stats than our league combined, we watched them on film score 50 points,” he said. “I got to be honest with you, we thought we could shut them down. We believe we can play defense as well as anyone in the state of Maine in any class.”
Ouellette was Leavitt’s offensive leader with 66 yards on nine carries.
Leavitt (11-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Mountain Valley (12-0) 6 8 0 6 — 20
MV – Durland 33 pass from Kaubris (pass failed)
MV – Kaubris 1 run (Kaubris rush)
MV – Bradley 66 run (kick failed)