Gray-New Gloucester’s seniors had gone three seasons – and 23 games – since last experiencing a win. The underclassmen had never won a varsity game. That all changed on opening night last Friday when the Patriots rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a 44-37 win over Mountain Valley in Rumford.

“Realistically, we went into the game looking to get a good effort from our team,” said Coach Mark Renna. “I didn’t think we would score 44 points. We were down by one point at halftime and by 13 with seven minutes to go. Last year we were in a couple of games but we petered out in the fourth quarter.”

There would be no petering out this time. During the preseason, the coaches stressed the importance of finishing games.

The Patriots learned their lessons well, scoring three touchdowns in the final six minutes.

“It was crazy,” said Renna of the scene right after the game. “We have to teach them how to win. We got them in line quickly to shake hands.”

Austin Chase, a senior co-captain, scored on a long run to get Gray-New Gloucester within seven points. The Patriots then held Mountain Valley on downs, got the ball and passed to tight end Tristan Herod, who took it 70 yards for a touchdown.

The Patriots went for two points to take the lead.

“I was very nervous on defense when we went back on the field,” said Chase, a linebacker. “I didn’t want to make a mistake.”

Zack Haskell, another senior co-captain who plays at halfback and safety, had the same feeling.

“Going out on the field was very nerve-wracking. The first play after we went ahead, Mountain Valley gained 15 yards,” he said. “Last year’s team would have laid down, but we got together in the huddle and said we had to stop them. We were mentally prepared.”

Moments later the Patriots intercepted a pass and Chase broke a run for 60 yards to put it away.

Haskell planned to leave for a camping trip right after the game, but the team’s first win since the opening game of the 2012 season changed all that.

He wanted to join his teammates on the bus ride back to Gray.

“Last winter we won a basketball tournament preliminary game at Fryeburg Academy to get to the Portland Expo (for the quarterfinals),” Haskell said. “We had a great time on the ride back to school. We were doing chants. I couldn’t miss that.

“I had a lot of confidence before the game, knowing what this team was capable of.”

Chase, like Haskell, was confident going into last week’s game.

“We had played all these teams in the eighth grade and done well. I knew if we worked well together as a team we could win,” he said.

Quarterback Justin Bowie passed for two touchdowns and scored three 2-point conversions. Bowie, a senior, is playing football for the first time since the eighth grade.

The Patriots have gone 0-8 the past two seasons. Three years ago when the seniors were freshman, the Patriots beat Falmouth in their opening game, then dropped the last seven.

The Patriots will play at Fryeburg Academy on Saturday.

ANOTHER TEAM getting its first win last week was Medomak Valley of Waldoboro – in the program’s first varsity game. The Panthers beat Bucksport 14-13 at home on Saturday. The Panthers, who played as a club team last year, are the state’s only new varsity football team this fall.

“We have a good senior class and a big junior class,” said Coach Ryan Snell, who started with Medomak Valley Youth Football when the current seniors and juniors were in middle school.

Bucksport is an established Class D North program, but is young with only four seniors.

“Going up against a program like Bucksport’s, you hope to be competitive,” said Snell. “At halftime it was 0-0 so we knew we were in it. The victory really took a couple of days to sink in. I’m excited for the community to see what a big football win can do.”

Cole Ashmore carried 20 times for 108 yards and scored on a 78-yard pass play for the tying touchdown.

Medomak Valley will play again Friday night at Stearns High of Millinocket.

“It was certainly a great day all around for the community and the program,” said Athletic Director Matthew Lash.