DEXTER, Maine — High school football has followed the path of the professional and collegiate versions of the game, with wide-open offenses that spread out the defenses now often more the norm than the exception these days.
But the Dexter Tigers showed Saturday afternoon that the basics of the game — blocking and tackling — remain just as important to success during their 29-0 LTC Class D victory over Washington Academy of East Machias at Tiger Field.
Coach Andrew Shorey’s club limited the WA duo of fullback Jaden Talbot and quarterback Finn Furth — who combined for 312 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a win against Stearns of Millinocket a week earlier — to just 57 total yards thanks to defensive discipline and sure tackling.
“They didn’t miss hardly any tackles,” said WA head coach Barry Terrill. “They were always in good position, they were just very sound defensively.
“We kind of pride ourselves in not being tackled by the first guy, Well, they tackled us with the first guy a lot, but it wasn’t always just the first guy. They had two or three guys swarming to the ball a lot.”
A Dexter defense anchored by senior nose tackle David Kirshkain held WA to 106 total yards, all on the ground. It also scored the first two points of the game on a safety and the final touchdown of the day on a 49-yard pass interception return by junior cornerback Cameron Paige with 3:09 left.
“We had one job and that was to execute, stop them from moving the ball and getting the ball for our offense so they could score, and I thought we did that very well,” Kirshkain said.
Dexter’s offense complemented the defense with a ground-oriented attack that averaged 4.3 yards per carry. It was led by the line play of Kirshkain and Haeyden Guenthner at guard, tackles Ryan Davis and Colton Tibbetts and center Robbie Dorman. Senior Dillon Allen led the Tigers with 97 yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts while sophomore Parker Ponte added 53 yards and a score on six rushes.
“We’re very balanced in the backfield and we like to spread the ball,” Shorey said. “We have some very good athletes, it’s just about putting it all together offensively and while we’ve yet to do that I think we’re close. I think we’re very close.”
A 43-yard punt by Dexter’s Gage Stone that pinned WA at its 3-yard line led to the game’s first points. Furth was tackled in the end zone two plays later for a safety that gave the Tigers a 2-0 edge with 4:24 left in the first quarter.
Dexter extended that advantage just 17 seconds later.
A 20-yard return of the ensuing free kick by Caleb Weeks immediately gave the Tigers the ball inside WA territory. Ponte raced 40 yards to the end zone on the next play to make it 9-0.
Dexter twice converted on fourth-down plays during a 6-minute, 35-second possession in the second quarter that concluded when junior quarterback Logan Perkins hit classmate Tyler Chapman with an 8-yard touchdown pass with 1:08 left before intermission.
Allen took a fourth-and-1 handoff for a 16-yard gain to move the ball to the WA 25 earlier in the drive, and Perkins passed to Allen on a subsequent fourth-and-12 play for a 20-yard advance inside the Raiders’ 10-yard line.
Allen added a 3-yard scoring run on another fourth-down play midway through the fourth quarter to make it 22-0 before Paige — wearing a padded cast on one forearm to protect an injury suffered last weekend — used his healthy arm to grab an interception near midfield and race down the left sideline to cap off the scoring.
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