TURNER — When Mt. Blue needed big plays early Friday night, the Cougars got them.
Twice backed up to its own goal line and requiring a turnover to stop Leavitt from gaining command, the Cougars grabbed those.
Needing to bleed the final six minutes off the clock by converting not one, not two, but three first downs? Check, check and check.
Oh, and while the Cougars are taking inventory, they can mark off sweet revenge after a 20-12 victory over the Hornets.
“We always kept coming back to the huddle (saying), ‘One play, one play they got us by last year.’ That got us pumped up enough to take the ball away every time we needed to get that ball away,” senior tight end and defensive end Zak Kendall said. “All game, all practice, all year, we’ve talked about that one play. It’s been too long.”
Mt. Blue (6-0) avenged a pair of 2011 losses — 22-17 at Farmington and 22-21 here in double overtime at the Pine Tree Conference Class B championship game. The Cougars also ended the Hornets’ 38-game PTC winning streak, a run that dated back to the 2008 playoffs.
Kendall recovered Leavitt’s fumble at the 13-yard line late in the third quarter. Connor Farrington covered one at the Hornets’ 5 near the end of the first half.
Their heroics protected a lead that Mt. Blue owned all evening, thanks to a 41-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Whitney to Cam Abbott and a 73-yard scoring jaunt by Chad Luker in the first 2:29.
“We came out in the first half and we were all fired up after last year. We were ready to play football,” said Whitney, the Cougars’ third-year starter at quarterback. “Cam Abbott made a great grab going up for it and we kept going from there.”
Abbott won a jump ball with Leavitt’s Brian Bedard at the 5, then turned around and coasted into the end zone.
After Mt. Blue’s defense weaved a three-and-out, 215-pound fullback Luker took a handoff toward left tackle, bounced off a Hornet at the line of scrimmage and won a foot race down the home sideline.
Anthony Franchetti booted both extra points for a 14-0 advantage.
“The first one was a pass up top, but they had a couple of runs where they gashed us pretty good,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “It wasn’t a scheme thing. It was us not getting off blocks.”
Leavitt (5-1) answered with a 14-play, 68-yard march, capped by Bedard’s 1-yard plunge. Tyler Chicoine (10-for-20, 115 yards) hit Kevin Russell and Bedard over the middle to convert a pair of third-and-longs.
Dustin Richards blocked the PAT for the Cougars.
Mt. Blue wasn’t finished with the big plays. Two plays after a deep ball on the right sideline to Nate Backus drew a flag for pass interference, Nick Hyde ran the same pattern to the left.
Hyde beat two Leavitt defenders and Whitney hit him in stride for a 32-yard score and a 20-6 edge.
Matt Child stripped the ball from Whitney and Nate Coombs recovered to put Leavitt in business at the Mt. Blue 27 midway through the second quarter. Bedard’s 16-yard run on an option play helped advance Leavitt to the 5 before the Hornets returned the favor.
Chicoine’s pitch squirted through Josh Faunce’s hands. Farrington cleaned up for the Cougars.
“We had the ball inside the 20 twice, once in the first half and once in the second half, and we put it on the ground,” Hathaway said. “You can’t do that in a one-score game and expect to win.”
Kendall’s recovery offset the efforts of Leavitt’s rejuvenated defense in the third quarter.
Leavitt drove 63 yards to its final touchdown, a 5-yard grab by Bedard on a shovel pass from Chicoine. That fourth-down catch with 8:29 left was the fifth on the drive by Bedard, who finished with 131 all-purpose yards.
“Our linebackers, if we said the word ‘Bedard’ once in practice, we said it 8,000 times. He’s just a good player,” Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin said.
Mt. Blue had only one first down in the entire second half before taking over at its own 28 after a Sam Green punt.
Backus moved the chains by gaining 13 yards with a Whitney shovel on third-and-7. Bradley Jackson’s second effort picked up two yards when the Cougars needed one at the Leavitt 47.
Facing third-and-6 at the 41 after making the Hornets exhaust their timeouts, Whitney (101 passing yards, 56 rushing yards) faked to tailback Calan Lucas and bootlegged right for 15 to end it.
“We didn’t even have it in the playbook — Fake 42 rip, naked bootleg,” Whitney said. “Calan made a great sell on the fake.”
It was a play Parlin hashed out at halftime, anticipating the late need for it.
“Calan is the kind of kid you need to practice everything all week. I said, ‘Calan, all you need to do is take a fake.’ He sold it,” Parlin said. “He’s the kid I make fun of the most on the team. He’s a real smart kid and he’ll probably be making $300,000 a year someday.”
Judging from the smiles that emerged from the postgame huddle, this win was worth more than that.