Football: Winthrop / Monmouth / Hall-Dale come an unusual long way to the title game

Dom Trott of Winthrop / Monmouth / Hall-Dale is forced out of bounds by Tyler Hallett of Bucksport during a quarterfinal football match on November 6 at Winthrop. Andree Kehn / Journal of the Sun

WINTHROP – Dave St. Hilaire couldn’t help but wonder if this was happening again.

His Winthrop / Monmouth / Hall-Dale football team had seen a 20-point lead over Freeport reduced to seven with three and a half minutes left in the Class D semifinals, and he thought of five years ago, when Ramblers scored a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the D South final, only to see Lisbon win with a superb last second rally.

The worry was fleeting. Dom Trott returned the kick in play for a score, and everyone in green could time out.

“It was the visions of 2016 again,” said Ramblers coach St. Hilaire. “But when Dom Trott took the back kick and scored… it was like ‘Alright. New ending. ‘”

New end and new land. For the Ramblers, who face Foxcroft on Friday night at Cameron Stadium in Bangor for the Class D title, reaching their first league game since 2008 is a breakthrough, and it hasn’t been easy to get here. There have been heartbreaking losses and painful upheavals in recent seasons, and even this year twists have threatened to derail another promising season.

“Champions find a way to overcome adversity. That’s what we preached, that’s what our camp T-shirts said, ”said St. Hilaire. “We didn’t know what we would be hit with adversity with this year, but we have certainly been hit by everything under the sun.”

Winthrop / Monmouth / Hall-Dale quarterback Andrew Foster rushes between Bucksport’s Joey Bowen and Azize Younes in a Class D quarterfinal match at Winthrop on November 6. Andree Kehn / Journal of the Sun

Start with the story. The Ramblers have been a favorite, even the favorite, to play for a Golden Ball in Class D for a few seasons, but something has always stood in the way. It was the 2016 loss in Lisbon that St. Hilaire thought to revisit, when a Hail Mary gave the Ramblers their first crushing loss.

There were semi-final losses in 2017 and 2018 against Madison and Wells, respectively. And then there was the D South final in 2019, when the Ramblers were the No.1 seed but had to play at a neutral site in Lewiston and lost to Lisbon, which they had beaten by 35 points in the season. regular.

Some of the team’s players were now part of this 2019 squad. It still stings.

“It was disappointing. We expected more than we got, ”said senior running back Logan Baird. “It’s been a great season… it was just disappointing the way it ended.”

The Ramblers beat Freeport 40-14 in Game 1. The players of 2019 were able to learn from the past and warn new players that a place in the league was far from certain.

“Football is no fun. Anything can happen, ”said senior lineman Jake Umberhind. “If one team works harder than the other and the other is surprised, then they’re probably going to lose. … I reassure the boys to make sure they stay focused, that they just finish.

The Ramblers’ obstacles, however, weren’t limited to bad memories. The squad has been rocked point by point this season, with six games moved to different days, on different grounds or canceled altogether as weather and COVID have taken their toll on the schedule.

“It was a bunch of unlucky things that happened,” Baird said. “It’s definitely (felt weird). No one expects to have a power outage before a game.

In one of the strangest moments of the year, a car crash cut off the power at Maxwell Field minutes before a decisive game with Freeport, forcing the game to be postponed until Monday.

Winthrop / Monmouth / Hall-Dale’s Robby Feeney, right, has Foxcroft Academy’s DJ Scheel stiff arms as he tries to retire during the Oct. 22 game at Winthrop. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

“I was locked up, sitting outside the locker room, zoned,” Umberhind said. “And the lights went out. It was horrible. I was so excited for this game. We were going to blow them up.

The Ramblers soon faced a much bigger problem. A COVID outbreak hit the team just at the end of the regular season, forcing the team to call off their final with Oak Hill and putting the playoffs in jeopardy.

According to St. Hilaire’s estimate, 10 to 12 players and coaches were affected, and some began to wonder if their redemption playoffs were over before they started.

“I had serious doubts about our season. I thought we were going to be closed, ”Umberhind said. “After losing the junior year, then going through a great season, and then COVID shutting us down, I wasn’t even sure if it was going to last a week, two weeks, or the entire season.”

The Ramblers, however, have adopted the premise of these camp T-shirts. They handled Bucksport 46-27, then denied Freeport the measure of revenge Lisbon had won two years earlier with a 28-19 victory.

“It brought us down that week,” said St. Hilaire. “(We didn’t) have a full squad against Bucksport in the playoffs, and then (we weren’t) picking up kids until the end of the week. You just get by. You plug in guys. We were able to do what we had to do to execute offensively and defensively, because we had guys who were ready to go.

It’s now a rematch with Foxcroft in the state championship, and the end of a path no one could have predicted.

“Most of my life I’ve wanted to win a state football championship,” Baird said. “This is the opportunity to do it.”

“We like where we are at,” St. Hilaire said. “You have to participate to win, and here we are. “

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