WELLS — At the time, no one was sure what they had just witnessed, not sure if they could believe what they had just seen. But everyone knew it was extraordinary.

It came early in the fourth quarter of a tie game between Western Class B contenders Wells and Cape Elizabeth last October. On second down from the Capers’ 4, Wells quarterback Paul McDonough rolled to his left.

Cape’s defense came hard, with two players wrapping their arms around McDonough 4 yards behind the line. As he went down, his body parallel to the ground, maybe 6 inches above it, McDonough flipped the ball out to Michael Moats.

Moats caught the ball in stride and eased into the end zone for the winning score.

Afterward, everyone referred to the play as backyard ball. But it was more than that. It was McDonough at his best, improvising, using his athletic ability to make something happen.

“He’s a winner in whatever he does,” said Wells Coach Tim Roche. “My wife and I and our son went to the Class B (basketball) playoff game against Cape last winter. He hits this crazy 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. That didn’t surprise me.

“In baseball, if he’s up with the bases loaded, he finds a way to get the run in. He’s one of those kids who has a knack of getting it done.”

McDonough, now a senior, helped the Warriors to the Western Class B football final last year. Now he’d like to lead them to something bigger.

“This year we’re hoping to win it all,” said McDonough, matter-of-factly. “Anything less than that would be a failure.”

Big words. But McDonough has made a career of backing up his words with actions.

And this year the Warriors are loaded, with 16 returning starters. As Roche said, “With that many kids back, you should be good.”

The Warriors have some outstanding players, such as linebacker Louis DiTomasso – perhaps the state’s best-kept secret – and tight end Josh Ingalls. But it is McDonough who other coaches must game-plan against.

He didn’t have jaw-dropping stats last year – 266 yards rushing and three touchdowns, 27 completions for 615 yards and seven touchdowns – but his big-play ability makes everyone notice.

“He’s just a natural athlete,” said York Coach Randy Small. “I think he could play table tennis and do well in it. He’s just an athlete, good speed, good vision.”

He’s not big – only about 5-foot-10, 170 pounds – and takes a beating sometimes.

“Yeah, his back hurts, this hurts, it’s a constant ache,” said Roche. “But when it’s time to go, none of that matters. He picks himself up and makes plays.”

DiTomasso, who made 141 tackles last year, is no longer surprised by what McDonough can do. He hopes other teams concentrate everything they have on him.

“I have no doubt he’s going to make plays this year,” said DiTomasso. “I hope that opens more alley ways and more spots for the running backs.”

McDonough seems to thrive on the attention. He welcomes the pressure and doesn’t see himself as doing anything special.

“My role is just leading my team down to the end zone, making sure that I make all the plays that need to be made and don’t make mistakes,” he said.

He makes it sound so simple.

Oh yeah, McDonough also plays on defense and had five interceptions last year.

Some Wells supporters have suggested to Roche that he keep McDonough on the sideline when the defense is on the field.

“Paul’s going to play defense,” he said. “He could step out his door, slip and break his ankle. He plays.”

McDonough devours Skittles and Starbursts before games – “I just like eating candy before a game,” he said. – and likes to joke around, according to DiTomasso.

“But when it’s time to work, he works,” DiTomasso quickly added.

That’s because McDonough is savoring every minute of what will likely be his final football season. He figures he’s too small to play in college, so he’ll concentrate on baseball after high school. He’s a pretty good shortstop for the Warriors.

But for the next three months, he’s going to attempt to make this a season to remember for everyone.

“I’m the one getting the credit but linemen are there, receivers are there, running backs are there,” he said. “And they’re all working just as hard. I couldn’t do anything without them.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH