WELLS — The Wells High football team has won 27 consecutive games, dating back to the 2016 season. On Saturday evening, the Warriors (11-0) will aim for their third straight state championship when they take on Foxcroft Academy (10-0) in the Class D title game in Orono.

That type of success doesn’t come by accident.

“(The players) know they have to put in the work to be good,” said Wells Coach Tim Roche. “That’s what we have now, the buy-in by the kids on that work ethic.”

To make the starting lineup, the players know they have to earn it.

“If the coaches see you in the weight room every day working hard, and also coming to practice and giving 100 percent every play, every day,” said junior fullback/safety Payton MacKay, “then I feel like they’re going to want to play you more and see what you can do on the field.”

MacKay is a perfect example of what hard work can do. While he was a starter for Wells on defense at safety, MacKay “was probably our third or fourth running back when the season started,” said Roche. Then fullback Matt Tufts was injured in a game against Mountain Valley on Oct. 12.

Who did Roche turn to? “We wondered if Payton could do it,” he said. “I went to him that Monday and asked him about moving to fullback. He asked me if it meant he would carry the ball more.”

It did, and MacKay was suddenly Wells’ starting fullback. In the four games since, he has added a powerful element to the offense. In his first start against York, he rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. In Wells’ last two games, he has rushed for 465 yards and seven touchdowns.

“I really didn’t care how much I was getting the ball, I was willing to do whatever it takes to win the game,” said MacKay. “But it is cool to get the ball I guess.”

He gives Wells a 1-2 punch similar to last year when Tyler Bridge – who has rushed for 2,132 yards and has scored 40 touchdowns this fall – combined with Nolan Potter to form a potent running game.

“I think teams see who the guy is at the beginning of the year and try to stop him,” said Bridge. “It was Nolan last year and then I came on. When you have two good backs, it makes you unstoppable.”

Or at least really hard to defend.

“We have to have that one-two punch,” said Roche. “When we lost Matt Tufts, I thought teams would gear up to try to stop Tyler. Now, if they do that, the question becomes how do they defend the other side of the field, how do they defend the middle? They have to make a decision about how they’re going to defend the field. And that’s what I love about our offense.”

For the season MacKay has rushed for 895 yards – averaging 15.2 yards per carry – and 10 touchdowns.

“Payton is a great football player,” said Roche. “He’s stronger than an ox, he doesn’t miss the weight room. This is his thing, this is what he’s all about.”

At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, MacKay is similar to Bridge (6-3, 200) in size and style. They can run away from defenders but often prefer to simply run over them, sometimes using a stiff-arm to shrug them off. “Tyler is so fast when he hits the hole and he has the power to throw things off him,” said MacKay. “I take after Tyler when it comes to running.”

Bridge said that’s simply the way they run. “Honestly, ever since I’ve been playing backyard football, with my siblings and friends, they try to tackle you and you throw them off, I’ve always had that drive,” he said.

MacKay also plays basketball, but in the spring he’s in the weight room, preparing for football.

“I love everything about football,” he said. “The family that comes with it and, obviously, the hitting. It’s a lot of fun.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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