FARMINGTON — As Jordan Whitney’s replacement, Mt. Blue quarterback Andrew Pratt has some mighty big shoes to fill. In Friday night’s season opener against Hampden Academy, his feet, and his feats, were up to the task.
Pratt completed 16 of 21 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another score in three quarters of work to lead the defending Class B champions to a 49-20 win in the Cougars’ first game at the renovated Caldwell Field in three years.
“We had a good day throwing the ball,” Pratt said, offering an early nominee for understatement of the season.
Hampden was without senior starting QB Matt Martin, who was benched for the game for disciplinary reasons. Coach Kevin Canty declined to discuss the reason.
“Matt Martin’s our guy next week. That’s all I’m going to say about that,” Canty said.
Sophomore Tommy Farrar started in Martin’s place and completed nine of 22 passes for 145 yards, with three interceptions and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Pratt connected for two touchdowns apiece with Nate Backus (five catches, 119 yards) and Cam Abbott (five catches, 142 yards) and one to J.T. Williams.
The first touchdown came on the second play of the game, when Pratt hit Backus in stride on a fade route along the right sideline for a 72-yard score.
“All week, we thought they were going to play off us, but we saw first play they were playing up close,” Pratt said. “We went over the top and it worked out great.”
“He’s waited his turn,” Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin said. “I’ve listened to everyone tell me he’s not Jordan Whitney, and he won’t ever tell you he’s Jordan Whitney. But he brings all of the skills to the table. We felt last year that if something happened to Jordan, we could still win games with Andrew Pratt.”
Pratt, Backus and Abbott were deadly to Hampden’s passing game, too. Each intercepted a Farrar pass in the first half, leading Canty to briefly bench Farrar for senior Derek Jeslolowski.
“He had some adversity. We kind of threw him in the fire,” Canty said of Farrar. “He’s the future of the program. Matt’s a senior. He’s a sophomore, so we’re grooming Tommy to be the future of our program. He showed a lot of good things and some not so good things.”
Pratt parlayed Backus’ interception into an 11-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter. He converted his own pickoff into a 60-yard TD strike to Abbott on the next play.
“Cam and I were both talking and every time we’d come back to the huddle, Cam would tell me ‘I got my guy beat.’ I was, like, ‘Yup. Same here,'” Backus said. “We got it all day. We were really confident, and Andrew was throwing some great balls.”
Jeslolowksi didn’t fare much better during his brief tenure under center, getting sacked by Backus, Tyler Sennick and Connor Farrington. Backus’ 22-yard TD pass to Williams made it 28-0 at the half.
Pratt and Backus hooked up again for a 21-yard touchdown in the third. Matt Closson returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for Hampden’s first score, but the Cougars answered with Pratt and Abbott’s second TD connection, a 63-yard pass.
Farrar returned for the start of the second half and had a 18-yard TD pass to Tanner Bisbee against Mt. Blue’s JV defense. Reed Pozzy (13 carries, 46 yards) added a two-yard TD run for the Broncos. Alex Gilbert capped the scoring with a five-yard TD run for the Cougars.
Mt. Blue outgained Hampden, 511-173. The Cougars, who host Lawrence next week, were penalized 11 times for 75 yards, the Broncos, who travel to Gorham, five times for 35 yards.