DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The John Bapst of Bangor football team had just landed a body blow on a Foxcroft Academy defense unfamiliar with backing up.
A touchdown with 38 seconds left before halftime of Saturday’s LTC Class C football final not only produced a 7-7 tie but gave the Crusaders a dose of hope in their uphill battle against an opponent that had outscored its previous 10 opponents by 440 points.
But Foxcroft’s Don Boyer vanquished that hope in an instant, his 66-yard touchdown sprint just 19 seconds later sparking the Ponies to a 33-7 victory and their first Eastern Maine championship since 2009.
Foxcroft (10-1) will play for the state crown next Saturday in Portland against 10-1 Winslow, which defeated Dirigo of Dixfield 17-6 in the Western C final.
“We’ve been working hard at this for so long, years and years of our lives,” said Boyer, who finished the game with 266 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. “It really means so much to have our chance to go down there and play for a gold ball.”
Boyer’s game-changer came just after John Bapst drove 79 yards to tie the game on a 2-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass over the middle from Austin Spencer to Andrew Catlin.
“Honestly, it was a flip of the coin whether I wanted us to take a knee in that situation,” said Foxcroft coach Danny White. “I knew I didn’t want to throw the ball, but I felt like what the heck, let’s take a shot and run it. We were able to stay on our blocks long enough to get Donnie in the open field, and once he was in the open field he made a couple of kids miss and then found daylight and ran hard to the goal line.
“You don’t run the play thinking you’re going to score but you run the play to give yourself a shot at something. It was a very fortunate play for us.”
Boyer took the first-down handoff at the Foxcroft 34 and followed his younger brother, sophomore fullback Peter Boyer, through a hole on the right side of the line forged by senior tackle Louis LaFache and senior guard Cody Levensalor.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior worked his way toward the right sideline, broke a tackle by Spencer at the 30 and outraced Catlin to the end zone to give Foxcroft back the lead and restore its momentum.
“Playing on Oakes Field for all of us seniors means so much, we weren’t going to let them have anything easy. Coming back and scoring after they scored was big,” said Boyer. “After I found that seam I saw the end zone and I wanted to get there as fast as I could.”
The touchdown gave Foxcroft a 13-7 lead but was just the beginning for the Ponies, who outscored John Bapst 20-0 after intermission while limiting the Crusaders to minus-6 yards of offense.
“It definitely gave us a lot of momentum going into halftime, and it helped us break their momentum, for sure,” said LaFache. “Our defense really stepped up in the second half. We needed to, because we knew we wanted to make it to states.”
John Bapst (9-2) recovered a Foxcroft fumble at midfield on the first play after the second-half kickoff but went backward, with Foxcroft regaining possession at the Crusaders’ 32 when Kolby Kendall recovered a mishandled fourth-down punt snap.
Foxcroft needed just two runs of 19 and 13 yards by Boyer — again behind Levensalor and LaFache — to extend its lead to 19-7 with 9:11 left in the third quarter.
A fourth-down interception by John Bapst’s Josh Baker at the Foxcroft 1 ended the Ponies’ next possession, but the Crusaders soon were forced to punt from their end zone.
Foxcroft took over at the John Bapst 23, and two more runs by Boyer — for 12 yards and then 11 yards to the end zone — gave the Ponies a 26-7 cushion with 2:26 left in the period.
Alex Stevens added Foxcroft’s final score on a 6-yard run with 8:40 left in the game, and he also led the defense with 12 tackles as the Ponies held John Bapst to 105 total yards.
Foxcroft scored on its first possession of the game, albeit in a less than routine manner.
As Don Boyer approached the first-down marker on a second-and-16 run he fumbled, only to have teammate Ryan Rebar make the recovery and race 56 yards down the right sideline to give the Ponies a quick 7-0 lead.
John Bapst countered late in the second quarter with its most productive possession of the day, but as the Crusaders scored they also left time on the clock and Boyer and his mates took full advantage.
“They built on that big play, and in the second half they basically decided they were the best team in this league and that they were going to a state championship game,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “When that team puts its mind to something they’re going to accomplish it and I wish them the best of luck next week.”