AUBURN—Treva Valliere and Stuart Salom kept Windham out front vs. Edward Little on Friday night, Nov. 3, but the Eddies never relented, and threatened even as the clock wound down. Eagle Hunter Coffin reeled in a pick-six in the final seconds, however, securing a 21-12 W for his boys and extending their season another week.
“They’ve got athletes everywhere,” Windham head coach Matt Perkins said of the Eddies. “We had to take care of business. We knew how many athletes they had, and we had to really control them. We had to do a lot of things on the fly.”
The teams traded fruitless drives to chew through the first quarter. EL were in possession to begin the second, but soon fumbled on a snap; Windham recovered at the Eddies’ 36. Valliere, Salom and QB Tanner Bernier chained together a number of short runs and Bernier hooked up with Coffin for 13 as the Eagles marched toward first and goal at EL’s two. Valliere then punched the touchdown home, and Bernier added the PAT. 7-0.
The Eagles took their narrow lead into the break, but wasted no time in doubling their score upon returning to the field. Following a strong Coffin kickoff return to Windham’s own 33, Salom, Valliere and Bernier again handled the running duties, with a critical contribution – a four-yard push to convert a fourth down – by Nate Watson. From first and goal on the Eddies’ three, Bernier pitched to Salom, and Salom skittered over the goal line. Bernier tacked on the extra point: 14-0.
“To win the halves are always vital,” Perkins said, “especially when you get the ball coming out. And then to drive down and score. That’s a big set-up, and it keeps the pressure on them.”
EL took a turn – a couple of them, to be specific – scoring points, after that. QB Grant Hartley hit Xzabier Weaver for a 66-yard pass TD late in the third, then carried a six-yard rush TD himself midway through the fourth. But the Eddies also missed a PAT kick and failed on a two-point conversion, leaving them trailing 14-12.
Naturally, EL attempted an onsides kick after scoring their second touchdown. Windham came up with the ball, but the Eddies forced a three-and-out. Bernier’s punt took a fortuitous roll and Salom fell on it near the EL end zone, sticking the Eddies with ugly field position. Still, they had better than five minutes to work with.
“That punt, to put them inside the five, they’re down by two points – I mean, you want to talk about special teams and getting it done,” Perkins said. “That was vital.”
Heavy winds in the Eddies’ faces no doubt limited their passing options as time ticked away, and they relied on a fits-and-starts running game to reach their own 27. Hartley tried a throw then, but it fell incomplete. With less than a minute remaining, Hartley managed to connect with Terrell Thomas, and Thomas managed to skitter OB for a short gain. Hartley hurled to Thomas again on EL’s next play. Thomas grabbed 16 this time around, but a flag for an illegal man downfield erased the yardage.
“We were trying to be smart about formation, make them nickel-dime us,” said Perkins, asked about taking away the Eddies’ opportunities to make big plays. “They got the one big one on us, and hey, it’s okay.”
The wind, working against EL, was something of a happy coincidence for the Eagles. On the other hands, it also reflected strategic decision-making. “We chose the wind in the fourth,” Perkins said. “That’s what you want to do in certain situations.”
Desperate, with maybe 30 seconds left, Hartley lofted up a long attempt. The ball battled the wind all the way to the Eagles’ 43 – but that’s where Coffin picked it off. Coffin returned the INT for six points; another Bernier PAT sealed the deal at 21-12.
“He’s come a long ways; he’s a heck of an athlete,” Perkins said of Coffin. “He’s really buckled down for us, been very vital.”
“The whole line,” Perkins said, asked who else played well for Windham. “They really manned up. We had Jayden Gonsalves, who’s never even touched the field, start at center tonight. The guys just absolutely got after it up front.”
The No. 4 Eagles, now 6-4, will host No. 6 Portland (4-6) in the Regional Final on Friday night, Nov. 10.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Stuart Salom carries through the middle for Windham.
Hunter Coffin returns the interception he grabbed near the end of Windham’s game at Edward Little on Friday.
Windhamite Treva Valliere resists the tug of an EL defender.
Windhamite George Butts (26) lays a huge hit on an EL opponent.
Tanner Bernier helmed the Eagles offense to a semifinals win over the Eddies on Friday night.
Derek Foss curls toward the action for Windham at EL Friday night.
Eagle Connor McInnis crashes into an EL opponent.
Windham’s Anthony Kilgallon wraps up an EL ball-carrier.