TURNER — Carl Dodge had two seconds to go two yards and give the Belfast Lions a win they will never forget.
Luckily Dodge had another second, a second effort, when the Lions needed it most.
Dodge took the handoff from QB Zach Collier and followed senior guard Peter Kelley to the left side on a trap play. About five feet from the goal line, a Leavitt defender met him, but he was on his stomach and could only wrap his arms around Dodge’s lower legs.
As a second and a third would-be tackler approached him and with the game-ending siren blaring, Dodge lunged for the goal line. The 5-foot-7 senior halfback’s reach was just enough to get the ball over the line before his knee touched. Two beats later, the official signaled touchdown, and No. 7 Belfast had the 20-17 upset that shook Eastern Class B and ended No. 2 Leavitt’s three-year Pine Tree Conference championship run at Libby Field on Friday night.
“It’s called ‘47 trap,’” Dodge said of the game-winning play. “Peter Kelley comes out and blocks the end and I do what I can. I just had to believe. I had maybe a yard-and-a-half to get in there.”
Belfast (5-4), which was shut out by Leavitt, 36-0, in Week 2, moves on to the semifinals and will face No. 6 Waterville, which pulled off an upset of its own over No. 3 Hampden Friday night. Leavitt finishes its season at 7-2.
“We played Belfast football, the way we’re brought up to play,” said Belfast senior two-way tackle Wyatt Roberts, who led a Belfast defense that forced three Leavitt fumbles. “We just put it to the grindstone every single play and came out with the win.”
Leavitt’s third fumble, a mishandled double reverse at Belfast’s 23, opened the door to its demise. Albert Ray pounced on the pigskin in the Leavitt backfield, giving the Lions the ball at their own 31 with 3:22 left.
With two timeouts in their back pocket, the Lions calmly drove the field, overcoming a block-in-the-back penalty and never reaching third down until the game’s final play. The key plays were 15-yard runs by Dodge and Greg Clark, with the latter pushing the Lions to the 6.
On first down from there, Dodge dragged tacklers four yards to the 2. With no timeouts left, the Lions hustled to the line and Collier spiked the ball with two seconds remaining.
“We work on (the spike drill) during practice. The kids kept their composure,” Belfast coach Chris Bartlett said. “(Dodge) looked at me and said ‘Coach, give me the ball. I’ll get it in.’”
Belfast balanced the tough running of Dodge (16 carries, 81 yards, two TDs) with an efficient passing game from junior QB Collier (11-for-17, 126 yards, one TD, one INT), who found gaps in Leavitt’s cover-2 and man-to-man pass defense for some big plays.
“Their defense is stingy and you’ve got to be willing to throw the ball against them,” Bartlett said. “We’d make a good pass and we’d get a penalty. The big thing was our line got the pass protection for us. He did a good job with his reads. He took what they gave us. Last time we played them, he tried to force some passes.”
Leavitt moved the ball regularly, punting just once. But the Lions’ tackling was sure. They didn’t allow a play over 18 yards and kept the Hornets’ most explosive player, Brian Bedard (11 carries, 57 yards, two TDs) contained. They allowed just four first downs in the second half, one on a penalty, and recovered two fumbles deep in their own end.
“The big thing was just breaking down and getting tackles,” Bartlett said. “Their backs get through a lot and you get hung up with arm tackles and they break them.”
Leavitt’s first fumble snuffed a promising opening drive at Belfast’s 15. The defense forced Belfast to punt out of its end zone and partially blocked it, setting the Hornets up at the 3. Three plays later, Bedard scored from a yard out and Marshall Weiss hooked up with Dakota Duncan on the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Belfast tied it up on the first play of the second quarter as Tyler Tran got behind the Leavitt secondary on a play-action pass and hauled in Collier’s pass for a 15-yard TD. Collier’s two-point pass to Dodge made it 8-8.
Belfast’s only turnover, a Nate Coombs interception at the Lions’ 42, led to the Hornets’ next score, a two-yard run by Bedard. The two-point conversion failed and momentarily kept the lead at 14-8. But after the defense forced a three-and-out, Dustin Moore booted a 26-yard field goal as time ran out on the first half to make it 17-8.
The third quarter turned into a battle of field position. Leavitt stopped Belfast on 4th-and-inches at its own 23, but promptly lost its second fumble, which Collier recovered at the Leavitt 40 two plays into the fourth quarter.
Despite having a lot of success through the air up to that point, the Lions stayed on the ground for all seven plays of the ensuing scoring drive. Dodge capped it with a 16-yard run, bouncing off a tackler at the 10, then outracing the Hornets to the left pylon. Leavitt stopped the two-point run to maintain a 17-14 lead, but Belfast had a big boost to its confidence.
“The first time we came up here, the thing is, in the first quarter and second quarter, we didn’t believe (as Leavitt built a 30-0 lead),” Dodge said. “Then in the third and fourth quarter we came out and they only scored once on us. So we knew from then, we could beat Leavitt.”
Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway was unavailable for comment after the game.