Windham High School wins Class A West football title
Extra-point attempt the difference maker in wild, wet game
By Matt Boutwell
As the Windham Eagles celebrated their 7-6 win over Cheverus Saturday afternoon, it was tough to tell who was crying with joy and who was just soaked to the bone from the cold and pelting rain. Players took turns using the football field like a muddy slip-and-slide, diving head first onto the mud-soaked field and sliding in celebration.
Quarterback Jackson Taylor found running back Jack Mallis in the crowd, and gave him a great big bear-hug while carrying him, which caused one spectator to quip, ''That's the first time Mallis has been carried all day.''
Cheverus, which once again gave the Eagles all it could handle and more, could not have played any better under the circumstances. They set the tone in the first half with their physical play, forcing two Windham players, senior offensive lineman and defensive lineman Matt Wilson and and senior wide receiver, corner back, and punter Tucker Miller, to the sidelines for the day.
The injury to Miller immediately paid dividends for Cheverus, as they were able to block a punt by Matt Coffee to set themselves up with field position at the Windham nine-yard line. On fourth and goal from the Windham two-yard line, Cheverus quarterback Peter Gwilym ran around the right side and found the endzone, putting the Stags up 6-0.
The extra point was no good and would turn out to haunt them at the end of the game. It was the only points the stout Windham defense allowed all day.
''(The defense) just played really good football today,'' said Windham head coach Matt Perkins. 'The staff did a good job of making adjustments.''
While Windham's offense continued to struggle with the Cheverus defense, the Stags were able to block another Coffee punt, which set them up with a chance to go up by two scores. With momentum on their side, Cheverus marched down to the Windham goal-line. On third and goal from the Windham three-yard line, with no time-outs and 5 seconds left, Cheverus went for the touchdown instead of the field goal. Gwilym was sacked on the play, time ran out, and Windham went into the half with a big momentum boost.
''That was a big swing in the momentum,'' said Perkins. ''You aren't coming back against anyone down 12- or 13-to-0 in this weather.''
The opening drive of the second half turned out to be the game-winner for the Eagles. Starting off at their own 20-yard line, they gave the ball to Mallis and methodically marched down the field. Running through the slop and the wet grass, Mallis capped the drive off with a 1-yard plunge to tie the score at 6. Coffee added the all important extra point, giving the game it's final score. Taylor knew the weather conditions meant Mallis needed to be the man to get them into the end zone on that drive.
''We just weren't going to be able to do anything,'' said Taylor. ''For him to go out there and put this offense on his back was just huge for all of us.''
From there it was a battle of field position and two teams desperately trying to hold onto the ball. There were not a lot of passes thrown, as each team kept hoping to to break the big run. Windham was happy running down the clock, even using a fake punt that Perkins had been holding onto ''the entire season'' to get the Eagles to the Cheverus 10-yard line. Cheverus managed to turn Windham away after Taylor's fourth down pass to Matthew Gledhill became a victim of the rain and mud.
Cheverus took over at their own 4-yard line and even converted two long fourth downs to get to midfield, but TJ Robbins forced a fumble that Windham recovered with a little under two minutes left. After Windham turned it over on downs, the defense held up one more time, forcing Gwilym to throw the ball to an ineligible receiver and ending the game. They all got to touch the Western Class A champions plaque, but knew they have one more test next week against Bangor.
''We've been going a little bit further every week,'' said Perkins after the game.''We have one more week to go as far as we can go.''
Notes: Mallis finished with 34 carries and 139 yards rushing..Nick Burton had three carries for 26 yards, including the fake punt that melted valuable time off the clock.