TURNER – The Gardiner High football team gave Leavitt all it could handle — and certainly more than it wanted — in the Eastern Class B championship game for the second consecutive season.

But just like last year, the Hornets pulled away in the second half to finish off the Tigers.

Jordan Hersom rushed for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 25 carries as top-seeded Leavitt beat No. 3 Gardiner 27-7 before about 2,500 spectators Saturday.

“We had the Eastern Maine belt and we didn’t want to give it up,” Leavitt Coach Mike Hathaway said. “We weren’t ready to give it to somebody else.”

The Hornets (11-0) pushed their state-best winning streak to 23 games and will try to defend their Class B championship against geographical rival Mountain Valley (11-0) in a much-anticipated showdown Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Leavitt is aiming to become the first team since Winslow in 2000-01 to win consecutive Class B state championships.

The Tigers, who lost to the Hornets for the fourth time in two seasons, finished 8-3.

“It was pretty frustrating,” said Gardiner junior running back Alonzo Connor, who rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. “We just didn’t get it done.”

Leavitt edged Gardiner 13-0 in the regional final last season. The Hornets led just 7-0 at the half of that game before controlling the second half.

On Saturday, the teams were tied 7-7 at halftime, but it was all Hornets in the final two quarters.

Jake Ouellette rushed for a 31-yard touchdown with four minutes left in the third to put Leavitt ahead for good. Max Cloutier kicked the extra point, and the Hornets were off and running.

The touchdown run capped an eight-play, 81-yard drive. It also came after Gardiner stopped on fourth and short in the red zone.

Twice, Gardiner drove inside the Leavitt 25 in the third quarter, but both times the Tigers came away empty handed.

“We just couldn’t get into a flow in the second half,” Gardiner Coach Jim Palmer said. “We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”

Hersom and Ouellette rushed for touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Ouellette rushed for 99 yards, including 70 in the second half.