BREWER — The Brewer football team hoped its quickness and athleticism would overcome the size advantage Waterville brought to town Saturday night.
But while nobody could anticipate just how quickly that contrast would be exploited, Brewer simply had too much lightning for Waterville’s thunder and rolled to a stunning 27-13 victory over the Purple Panthers in their Pine Tree Conference Class B matchup at Doyle Field.
Anthony Jackson scored touchdowns on the Witches’ first two possessions of the game, and Dillon Smith opened the second half with a 56-yard punt return for another score as coach Don Farnham’s club took a 27-0 lead en route to scoring its sixth straight victory.
“We always love starting off scoring points and getting the momentum going,” said Jackson, who scored on runs of 1 and 80 yards and also contributed 2 1/2 quarterback sacks to his team’s defensive effort. “It carries on to the defense, so when we stopped them the first time they had the ball it was a great start to the game.”
The win puts 6-1 Brewer in contention to host a first-round playoff game in two weeks, a prize that could depend on how it fares in its regular-season finale at Hampden Academy next Friday.
“This gives us a lot of confidence going into next week that we can play with all of the teams in Class B,” said Brewer senior lineman and linebacker Matt Callahan.
Brewer hadn’t lost since Week 1 at Mt. Blue of Farmington, but its five opponents since had a combined record of 6-24 entering the weekend.
Waterville, meanwhile, had won four of its first six games against the toughest schedule in the league.
“We knew Waterville was bigger than we were and that it was going to be a test, but we’d been successful the last few weeks so we were hoping their confidence was built so that when we got to a big game we wouldn’t lay an egg, and we didn’t. Our kids came out and battled.”
That battle was on immediately, with Brewer mounting a 15-play, 67-yard drive after taking the opening kickoff that culminated when Jackson took a pitch from quarterback Chris Miller and raced around the left corner for the final yard to the end zone with 3:44 left in the opening quarter.
That play came on fourth down after three attempts up the middle from the 1 produced nothing.
“We were slamming it inside and they were bringing the blitzes every time, so we just used the option and got outside and it was wide open,” said Jackson.
Evan Lacey added the first of his three extra-point kicks to give the Witches a 7-0 lead.
While it took Brewer the first 8 minutes and 16 seconds of play to score its first touchdown, it required just 15 seconds to score again.
After the Witches forced a three-and-out from Waterville on its first possession, Jackson took a first-down pitch from Miller and raced down the right sideline 80 yards to the end zone to give the Witches a 14-point lead with 1:15 left in the period.
“I saw the corner out of position so I just turned the jets on and went,” said Jackson. “I had great blocking.”
Brewer maintained that lead into intermission, but Jackson’s sack of quarterback Aiden FitzGerald on Waterville’s opening possession of the third quarter forced a quick punt that Smith caught on the bounce at the Brewer 44 before using a block by Jackson to get to the left sideline and following a downfield block by Brody Valley to reach the end zone and make it a 20-0 game.
“I heard Jackson screaming, ‘Your ball, your ball,’ so I got it and then he blocked someone,” said Smith. “Another kid hit me in the shoulder and I kept running and then Brody had an awesome block at about the 20 and I cut back and it was open field from there.”
Valley added a 26-yard scoring run later in the period, climaxing a four-play, 61-yard march through the middle of the Waterville defense to give Brewer a 27-0 lead.
“They were big,” said Smith, “but we had the speed.”
J.T. Whitten scored twice on 1-yard runs for Waterville in the fourth quarter, the first capping off a 17-play, 70-yard march after Valley’s score and the second 11 plays later after Whitten recovered his own onside kick.
Brewer finished with a 327-236 advantage in total yardage, with Jackson rushing for 83 yards on five carries and also completing a 33-yard option pass to tight end Nate Morris.
“We knew they were stronger than we were, we knew their running backs were bigger than most of our guys,” said Farnham. “What we decided to do was not stand toe-to-toe. We blitzed a lot, we moved guys around and used our speed and tried to keep everything as wide open as we could and it worked tonight.”