HERMON, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy Ponies may have been undermanned, but they surely weren’t underpowered Friday night.
Junior halfback Peter Boyer and senior fullback Corey Bjornson combined for 366 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as the defending Class C football state champions opened their season with 50-13 victory over Hermon at Pottle Field.
Boyer rushed for 213 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries and also scored on a 54-yard punt return for coach Danny White’s club, while Bjornson amassed 153 yards and two touchdowns on 15 rushes as the Ponies played without three injured starters, including senior quarterback Hunter Law.
“When we found out Hunter wasn’t available, it was hard but we just pushed through because we had a game to play and we couldn’t do anything about the people who were injured,” said Boyer. “We just pushed through and came together as a team.
“We switched some things up but we had a lot of reps in practice, which really helped a lot.”
Foxcroft’s defense, meanwhile, limited Hermon — a third-year varsity program eligible for the playoffs for the first time this season — to 126 total yards.
Junior halfback David Shepardson, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards in eight games for the Hawks in 2012, managed a hard-fought 96 yards against a Foxcroft defense led by Bjornson at linebacker.
Shepardson scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run late in the first quarter and had a 36-yard run to set up senior quarterback Josh Wilson’s 1-yard scoring run midway through the final period.
“We knew (Shepardson) was good, that he was a quick kid and had good cuts,” said Bjornson, who was credited with 15 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. “That’s really what we practiced a lot on, reading him and making sure we were filling our gaps.”
Boyer began the game playing quarterback in a wildcat formation as the Ponies were without Law, a returning starter sidelined by a concussion suffered during the team’s exhibition game at Orono a week ago.
Boyer accounted for 47 yards on Foxcroft’s first possession, a 65-yard drive that ended when he he faked a handoff to Bjornsen and went left the final seven yards to the end zone with 7:11 left in the opening quarter. Boyer then added the first of his four two-point conversion runs to give the Ponies a quick 8-0 lead.
Foxcroft’s injury woes — which included starting wideout Hunter Smith and lineman Clay Carroll also being unable to suit up — soon grew worse as starting halfback Ryan Wang went out with a leg injury.
But Boyer and Bjornson kept churning out yardage behind a rebuilt offensive line anchored by veterans Craig Chambers and Kolby Kendall and also including first-time starters Corbyn Bruce, Sean Cody, Kaleb Faloon and Brandon Brock.
“Our captain Craig really kept our line together and made them push the whole game,” said Bjornson.
Bjornsen stopped Shepardson for a 7-yard loss on fourth-and-3 from Foxcroft 48 midway through the first quarter to give the Ponies good field position.
Foxcroft then took a more traditional offensive approach and inserted sophomore Chris Storer at quarterback, and one 5-yard penalty later Boyer raced from his halfback slot 50 yards to the end zone to extend the lead to 14-0.
Hermon’s Alex Shelley recovered a mishandled Foxcroft punt-return handoff at the Ponies’ 9 with 1:09 left in the opening quarter, and two plays later Shepardson went around left end the final 5 yards to the end zone to draw the Hawks within 14-6.
Foxcroft responded with four unanswered touchdowns during the second quarter.
Boyer capped off a six-play, 68-yard march with a 20-yard touchdown run 1:53 into the period, and after Hermon went three-and-out Boyer took a punt back 54 yards to give the Ponies a 28-6 cushion.
“I didn’t really see anything at first,” said Boyer, “but then I saw a guy commit really hard so I just took that cutback and went from there. Things really opened up and I took it to the end zone.”
Bjornson recovered a Hermon fumble at the Hawks’ 26 on the first play after the kickoff, then after a penalty and an incompletion he went up the middle for back-to-back runs of 15 yards and then 20 yards to the end zone for his first score of the night with 6:50 left before intermission.
Boyer capped off the first-half scoring with a 9-yard touchdown run to make it 42-6 with 39.4 seconds left in the half.
Boyer had 171 rushing yards on 16 carries in the opening two periods alone, while Bjornson had 94 yards on 12 tries.
Bjornson scored Foxcroft’s final touchdown on a 54-yard burst up the middle in the final minute of the third quarter.