SOUTH BERWICK — For the first time all season, the Marshwood High football team faced a serious test Saturday because of rival York’s game-long grit and efficient fourth-quarter comeback.

Thanks to Zach Mitchell’s block of a point-after attempt with 2:01 remaining, Marshwood barely passed the exam, capturing the Western Class B championship with a 14-13 victory.

Marshwood (11-0) will face Eastern Maine champ Brunswick (9-1) in the state final next Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, with the game time to be determined Monday. Marshwood last appeared in the state final in 2012 when it lost to Mt. Blue, 44-42.

Marshwood entered Saturday’s game having outscored opponents 545-67. Its two playoff wins were 61-0 and 53-0, and its closest game was a 41-12 win against York in the final week of the regular season.

“We needed a game and they gave it to us, and now we’ll be ready for the state championship,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been worried about that all year, not being ready to play because no one has given us a challenge, and I’m happy York gave us a challenge. We knew they would.”

York (9-2) kept the game close with tough defense. Outside linebacker James Orso seemed to single-handedly cut down the Hawks’ attempts to run outside on a variety of sweeps and inside reverses.

Still, Marshwood appeared in command when Zach Doyon scored on a 6-yard run to cap an 87-yard drive with 4:21 to play, stretching the lead to 14-0.

The drive was set up when Cole McDaniel intercepted a Cole Merritt pass that was tipped at the line by Nick Dalecki.

York also had a lengthy first-half drive stopped in Marshwood territory by its only other turnover.

York rallied behind the play of Merritt, who spent most of the second half working out of a spread formation. He was 9-of-15 passing for 163 yards and rushed for 47 yards on 10 carries. Merritt’s 26-yard pass to Mark MacGlashing set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jack Neary with 2:41 to play.

Marshwood’s Brett Gerry leaped among a group of Wildcats to snare the ensuing onside kick, but on first down Jordan Pidgeon caused a fumble by Jackson Howarth and Daniel Bock recovered for York.

On third-and-11, Merritt hit Pidgeon in stride on a slant pass and Pidgeon sprinted through the secondary for a 57-yard touchdown, cutting the Hawks’ lead to 14-13.

York Coach Randy Small said he didn’t think about going for a 2-point conversion.

“We felt we had them on the ropes,” Small said. “I felt comfortable with our spread package and we have a great kicker. We were going to get to overtime and see what we could do.”

York kicker Trevor LaBonte had no chance on the extra point, however. Mitchell shot through the center-guard gap on York’s left side and blocked the kick with his chest.

“When you time it right they can’t block you if you’re heavy enough,” the 230-pound Mitchell said. “I blocked one the last time we played York.”

After another failed onside kick attempt, Marshwood went to its best option – 2,000-yard rusher Gerry – to kill the clock. Gerry gained the needed first down with powerful runs of 5 and 8 yards, giving him 146 yards on 18 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown in the first half. He also rushed for the conversion after his touchdown.

“I think people doubted if we could play four quarters,” Gerry said. “We didn’t play our best four quarters, but we hung with it and it’s going to be like that next week, too.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

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