DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Rivalry games often are fueled by emotion and momentum, and both were working against Foxcroft Academy on Friday night after neighboring Dexter had stunned the Ponies with a touchdown 73 seconds into the third quarter to claw back into contention.
But Jeremy Richard re-changed the game’s complexion with a 16-second burst of energy, an 81-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff as Foxcroft fought off the Tigers 24-14 at Oakes Field.
This was the first meeting between the teams since 2012, and while Foxcroft secured its 24th consecutive victory over Dexter in the rivalry it did not come easily.
“Offensively we just didn’t finish enough drives,” said Foxcroft coach Danny White, whose program leads the series 40-20-2 since 1951. “There were a couple of times when we sputtered in the first half but credit to them, they played harder than we did tonight. We were fortunate to come away with a ‘W’. They brought pressure all night, they brought their linebackers all night to confuse us and did a good job of it.
“For a majority of the game they outworked us but we were able to make some plays down the field and score some points and that was a difference.”
The biggest play came just after Dexter’s Logan Perkins scored from 3 yards out after a 77-yard punt return by Tyler Beam to pull the Tigers within 14-6 with 10:47 left in the third quarter.
Richard caught the ensuing kickoff on the Foxcroft 19, raced up the left side of the field and before cutting right toward the end zone — using an official as a screen near the 10-yard line — before completing his long scoring run.
Levi Stedman’s extra-point kick restored Foxcroft to a 21-6 cushion with 10:31 left in the period.
“We needed a spark from somewhere,” said White, “and what a better way to do it than to bring one all the way back for six. It came at a good time because they had gotten some momentum but we took it right back.”
Dexter was left to play catch-up the rest of the way, and did make it a one-possession late in the third period when Jacob Bickford passed 5 yards to Kyle Watson for a touchdown and Beam added the two-point conversion run to make it 21-14.
The Tigers got the ball back on a pass interception by sophomore Cameron Paige but managed just one first down before being forced to punt.
Foxcroft then churned out a 16-play, 67-yard drive that ate 7:09 off the clock before Stedman provided the Ponies some game-clinching insurance with a 26-yard field goal with 3:17 left in the game.
The win came one week after Foxcroft fell to Madison-Carrabec 49-28 in its season opener.
“It was certainly a more complete game from our team on both offense and defense and especially on special teams,” said White.
Senior quarterback Nick Clawson paced the Ponies offensively, completing 10 of 20 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 87 yards on 19 carries. Michaleb Niles added 61 yards on 14 rushes, while Richard had five pass receptions for 45 yards and Hyatt Smith added two catches for 39 yards and a score for the Ponies, who outgained Dexter 291-153 in total offense.
Beam rushed 13 times for 52 yards and Perkins gained 46 yards on 12 carries for 1-1 Dexter,
Foxcroft used two second-quarter touchdowns to take a 14-0 halftime lead.
The Ponies drove 56 yards in seven plays with Clawson scoring from the 1 to open the scoring with 10:09 left in the second period, with Stedman kicking the extra point to give Foxcroft a 7-0 edge.
Foxcroft doubled its lead on its next possession, this time on a 55-yard, seven-play effort capped off by Smith’s diving 30-yard catch in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0 with 1:36 left in the half.