STANDISH—Down two scores at the half vs. visiting Oxford Hills on Friday night, Sept. 27, the Scots doggedly clawed back to capture a 33-21 triumph. BE stole the momentum in the late-going on a battery of spectacular plays: Nate Ferris grabbed an INT, occasional-QB Zach Maturo and wide-receiver Chase Graves hooked up for a long-bomb, and Alex Dyer capped a crucial defensive stand with flawless pass coverage.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Graves said. “They’re a solid team; they work hard, just like us.”

“On offense,” BE head coach Kevin Cooper said, “our plan is to make sure that we can spread the ball around, use all three backs – Nate and Zach and Keegan [Meredith] – to run the ball; be able to throw it to Zach and [Jake Humphrey] and Nate and Shaun [Brilliant] and Chase. We put five guys across the field, when we’re in an empty set, we want to be able to spread the ball around. That makes us harder to defend.”

BE QB Keegan Meredith (11) and teammate Nate Ferris (6) celebrate Meredith’s late-game TD. Adam Birt / American Journal

The Scots started hot: Oxford Hills began with possession, but Bonny Eagler Nick Klein wasted little time intercepting Vikings QB Atticus Soehren. Meredith, BE’s regular QB, then scrambled: Looking for a receiver, Meredith found Maturo alone in the end zone. Touchdown. Humphrey tried for two – the Scots’ regular kicker, Cam MacDonald, hadn’t returned from his soccer game quite yet – but couldn’t get in. 6-0.

“Keegan Meredith’s a great quarterback,” Cooper said, asked to sound off on his on-field offensive maestro. “We have no hesitation at all to put the ball in the air, if we think that’s the best thing to do. He did a really good job with his reads, with his timing. First touchdown, it was a great scramble: kept his eyes downfield, saw Zach pop open after he scrambled. That’s really hard for a high school quarterback to do, to keep his eyes downfield, and Keegan does that really, really well.”

Oxford Hills responded in short order. After forcing Bonny Eagle to punt on fourth and 16, the Vikings made their way methodically upfield. Soehren connected on a couple short passes, standout runningback Colby VanDecker carried for good distance and the Scots handed their guests five yards on an offsides flag. VanDecker capped the series with a two-yard charge into the BE end zone. Elias Soehren successfully split the uprights to give his boys a 7-6 advantage.

“It was all mental,” Dyer said, asked what went wrong for the Scots in the first half. “We just missed some assignments. I don’t think they beat us; it was all mental game.”

Bonny Eagle recaptured the lead after that: Humphrey returned the Oxford Hills kickoff roughly 30 yards – nearly to the 50 – running left to right across the gridiron and setting up superb field position. Meredith ran for six, then two; Maturo ran for six, then 11: first and 10 at the Vikings’ 27.

But the Scots’ drive stalled when a pair of Meredith pass attempts to Maturo fell incomplete and Meredith lost a yard on a keeper. Fourth and 11 at the 28.

Chase Graves reels in a big, momentum-grabbing pass in the second half. Adam Birt / American Journal

BE could hardly punt from that spot, and didn’t have the foot they needed (MacDonald’s) to kick a field goal, so they went for it – for the first. They got that, and more: Meredith aired the ball out for Humphrey, finding him on the far side of the goal line for a touchdown. However, Meredith’s pass attempt to Nate Ferris for the two-point conversion failed, and the score lodged at 12-7. Bonny Eagle held the upper-hand, but they couldn’t have felt safe. Not even a little.

“Give credit to Oxford Hills,” Cooper said. “They play hard. It’s kind of a little old-school football, trying to run it like they do; a lot of teams don’t do that anymore. They definitely come out, and they played great, and they gave us all we could handle on defense. Part of the reason they could score on us that easy in the first half was we made some uncharacteristic mistakes on offense. We had a couple communication breakdowns that led to bad plays when we started to move the ball.”

The remainder of the uphill half belonged to the Vikings, who took the play – and, it seemed, the game – firmly in hand. Oxford Hills jumped out front 14-12 on their next possession, thanks to Soehren’s throwing arm and Addison Brown’s receptive hands.

The Vikings gave up significant ground on BE’s follow-up drive: Ferris contributed back-to-back runs of nine and five, Meredith threw for 17 and Maturo ran for eight. But again the Scots stalled out – and this time, they couldn’t jumpstart themselves. Oxford Hills sacked Meredith for fourth and 13 at the Vikings’ 32, and Meredith and Maturo failed to hookup on a long, desperate pass play; BE turned control over on downs.

Oxford Hills capitalized on the opportunity, pushing to fourth and goal at the BE one – and converting. VanDecker did it, leaping over the top of the Scots’ defensive line for 21-12. The break arrived.

Bonny Eagle may’ve been down on the scoreboard, but to hear Dyer tell it, they weren’t too worried. “In the locker room, we were all hyped up, we were ready,” he said. “I think all of us still thought we were going to win. We were ready to hit again, just ready to play hard.”

Alex Dyer turned in a number of good defensive plays vs. Oxford Hills – including arguably the play of the game. Adam Birt / American Journal

“Halftime was more, offensively, just trying to settle down,” Cooper said. “Trying to make sure we collected ourselves, play our game. We thought things could work on offense. On defense, we brought a couple linebacker pressures in the second half; that helped us on occasion. But fortunately, we were able to play better on offense, which now we’re able to take the lead. And when you play from ahead, obviously it’s a lot easier.”

The Scots didn’t turn the tables as soon as the third got underway – not at all; it took them some time. BE received the kickoff, but stumbled to fourth and 12 at their own 43.

Back in week two, Maturo’s fake-punt-play worked flawlessly against Scarborough and marked a turning point in the outing. This time around, sure, it worked – it just came up a few inches short. Bonny Eagle relinquished the ball on downs.

The Scots’ defense stood up the Vikings’ offense on the next series. Oxford Hills punted – but still BE couldn’t find their way into the end zone. Bonny Eagle powered close to a touchdown, but Meredith’s throw for Maturo from fourth and goal at the Vikings’ four fell uncaught.

Finally, late in the third, Ferris intercepted a Soehren pass try – a major momentum grab. From second and four at BE’s own 41, Ferris carted up the middle for four. Maturo then did likewise. Meredith hit Ferris up the middle for a hard-charging 25 before carrying up the middle himself for 28 more – 28, and first and goal at the Vikings’ one.

Maturo earned the TD and MacDonald – freshly returned to the field, having arrived back from his soccer match – punched the PAT through the uprights. 21-19, a one-score differential.

Nate Ferris ditches a wannabe tackler. Adam Birt / American Journal

“We’ve got to focus up and execute our plays,” Graves said. “Going into the second half, we responded right. We turned around and just worked hard.”

Dakota Grassi returned the ensuing kickoff for Oxford Hills. VanDecker carried – he tried to, anyway – up the middle after that, but Scot Eli LeBlanc walloped him there. Dyer and Will Horton then led Bonny Eagle in halting the Vikings at fourth and six at the BE 30; a sloppy punt followed.

First and 10 Scots at the Oxford Hills 45. Maturo – he’s QBed for Bonny Eagle in the past – fired off a long ball up the right sideline for Graves, and Graves reeled it in: a picturesque play and the moment at which the pieces fell solidly into place for BE.

“I don’t know,” Graves said, asked about the catch. “It was a really good catch on all parts – even scheming that up throughout practice all week. I’m just glad we were able to execute for that. It was a big turnaround for us.”

First and 10 at the Vikings’ 11. Maturo and Meredith each ran for a few, and Meredith carried home the go-ahead TD. He hit Shaun Brilliant for a two-point conversion, too: a critical play, since it put BE on top by a full six points. 27-21.

Under six minutes remained when Oxford Hills regained possession. They needed a touchdown to tie; a touchdown and a PAT would retake the upper-hand. The Vikings steamrolled to first and 10 at the BE 20 on a battery of VanDecker runs, but then burned through a down on a missed Soehren pass attempt.

Shaun Brilliant carries a pass for the Scots. Adam Birt / American Journal

VanDecker grabbed five more for Oxford Hills; Scot Garison Emerson halted him for second down. VanDecker then picked up three more, stopped for third down by LeBlanc.

“Definitely. He had like 23 rushes for 227 yards, or something like that,” Graves said of VanDecker, asked if the Scots had keyed on the Vikings’ chief ball-carrier. “He’s a good player – 10.3 on average, that’s crazy. So we gameplanned to stop that, and we tried our best.”

The BE line next clogged the middle to collectively stuff VanDecker: Fourth and two at the Bonny Eagle 12. Soehren dropped back to throw, and got the ball away barely in time – Ferris rushed in and crushed him. Should Soehren’s pass find its target, the Vikings would score. It floated, floated, floated…like it would float forever. But no: Dyer covered Soehren’s would-be receiver like a pro, and the pass fell dead.

“About three of my teammates keyed me off and said, ‘Watch the pop pass,’” Dyer said. “Coach Cooper always told us, at that down distance, there’s going to be a pop pass. And sure enough, there was, and I was able to get there just in time to break it up.”

“Obviously, probably the play of the game,” Cooper said, “Alex breaking up that pass. Him being able to read that in that situation – it’s fourth and two, it could be run; he’s got to be able to decipher whether or not the guy he’s covering – is it blocking? Is he running a route? For him to make that play, punch that ball out, was really unbelievable.”

The Scots regained control at their own 12 with 2:30 to play. BE needed to kill time – but instead they managed to score again. Maturo dashed up the middle for 17 and a first down at Bonny Eagle’s own 30. He then carried left for the longest run of the night, a 45-yarder: first and 10 at the Oxford Hills 25. Ferris took over from there, covering the distance between BE and the Vikings’ end zone in one fell swoop. 33-21: The Scots had shown their grit. They’d won.

Cam Gardner runs with the ball. Adam Birt / American Journal

Cooper had good things to say about a number of his players. “When we needed to make a big play, Keegan was on-target with his throws,” Cooper said. “He hits Nate on the slant, he hits Shaun on the quick-out. Those types of throws, when he needed to make them, he made great throws. Fourth and long he hits Hump for the touchdown. That really was spectacular throughout.”

“We know Will Horton’s a good player,” Cooper continued. “He makes plays for us all the time; he was facing a lot of double-teams tonight with what Oxford Hills does. It was good to see Eli LeBlanc make a play; it was a big tackle for a loss that he made. Nick Klein with a big pick early. We lost one of our linebackers for the game, Dawson Bradway, and Nolan Davis had to step up. Alex Dyer is a phenomenal player.”

Bonny Eagle remains undefeated on the fall, at 4-0. The team has emerged triumphant from its two biggest early-season challenges: first Scarborough, and now Oxford Hills. The Scots travel to reigning State Champions Thornton Academy on Saturday, Oct. 5.

“We feel pretty good,” Dyer said, asked where the Scots are at. “But obviously it’s not November 23rd. We want to keep getting better and better, and we want to be our best during playoffs.”

“We definitely have a lot of potential,” Graves said. “We’re only starting to peak. Our peak is not here yet, and we’re coming for TA. That’s all you gotta know.”

Keegan Meredith carries for BE. Adam Birt / American Journal

John Dugan sets up on the line for BE. Adam Birt / American Journal

Nate Ferris takes the handoff. Adam Birt / American Journal

Keegan Meredith powers towards a TD for the Scots. Adam Birt / American Journal

Zach Maturo clutches a handoff. Adam Birt / American Journal

Jake Harriman launches into a block. Adam Birt / American Journal

Jake Humphrey collects a touchdown pass. Adam Birt / American Journal

Nick Klein snatched an early-game interception for the Scots. Adam Birt / American Journal

Jake Harriman (79), Thomas Horton (76) and Garrett Gonyea (51) line up for the Scots on offense. Adam Birt / American Journal

John Merrill locks up with an Oxford Hills opponent. Adam Birt / American Journal

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