WINSLOW — One minute after he came close to returning an interception for a touchdown, Winslow’s Justin Martin got the biggest second chance of his football career.
Martin, a 6-foot-5 defensive back, leaped to snag a pass by Dirigo quarterback Brett Whittemore at the Winslow 27, then ran down the visitors’ sideline while his teammates cleared the way for a 73-yard touchdown return.
The play came just over a minute after Zach Guptill scored Winslow’s only offensive touchdown, and it gave the Black Raiders some breathing room midway through the fourth quarter. Winslow held on for a 17-6 win, taking the Western Class C title in just its second season in the league.
“We had great blocking when I was running,” Martin said. “They just got everybody out of my way and I just ran.”
Winslow (10-1) will face Foxcroft Academy in the Class C state championship game Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. It will be Winslow’s first trip to a state championship game since the Black Raiders lost to Mountain Valley in the 2006 Class B final.
Dirigo ends the season at 8-3.
“Turnovers were really key,” Winslow linebacker Brock Deschaine said. “Our defensive line got pressure on (Whittemore) and everybody did their job.”
All three of Winslow’s scores came off turnovers. Martin’s first interception, with 9:50 left, set up Guptill’s 6-yard touchdown run that gave Winslow a 10-0 lead. Martin grabbed that Whittemore pass at the Dirigo 29 and was pushed out of bounds at the 6. Guptill scored on the next play.
“Since I’m really tall, I just jump up for the ball. Hopefully you catch it and I just run back,” Martin said.
Dirigo committed four turnovers, two in each half. Adam Pelletier’s interception midway through the second quarter led to Dylan Hapworth’s 26-yard field goal with 2:29 left in the first half. Hapworth’s line-drive kick was right down the middle, minutes after a 40-yard attempt was short and right.
Winslow’s ability to stop the run forced the Cougars into throwing situations, Dirigo Coach Dave Crutchfield said.
“We had to take some chances. We had to get out of long-yardage situations so we had to throw the ball. We couldn’t seem to find it,” Crutchfield said.
The Black Raiders focused on trying to contain Spencer Trenoweth, Dirigo’s 1,000-yard running back. Trenoweth gained 70 yards on 10 carries and had two catches for 23 yards.
“Trenoweth, he’s so dangerous, every time he touches the ball he can go,” Winslow Coach Mike Siviski said. “I don’t think anybody’s really stopped him this year. We slowed him down. I don’t know that we stopped him.”
Dirigo gained 219 yards to Winslow’s 188, and the Cougars held Winslow’s strong running game to 147 yards on 42 carries. Joe Hopkins, who has more than 1,200 yards on the season, gained just 38 yards on 13 carries.