Windhamite Kaleb Cidre battles to successfully collect a pass. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

WINDHAM—The Eagles’ hopes for sending their Friday night, Oct. 4 matchup vs. visiting Cony into overtime – to say nothing of winning it outright – rested on the Rams’ kicker: With the score tied 6-6 and mere seconds left on the clock, Windham needed Kyle Douin to miss a field-goal attempt.

Douin didn’t miss.

Despite suffering a 9-6 defeat in the end, the Eagles took some positives away from the dustup with Cony. Most importantly for the young team: their defense.

“We’ve really come a long ways, defensively,” Windham head coach Matt Perkins said. “We’re so young, that’s just been a key, that we’re physically getting stronger, we’re competing. Playing with teams like this – that’s a great offensive team – and we’re competing.”

Cony opened with possession, but couldn’t dig up any points: They did push all the way to Windham’s seven, but on fourth and one drew a false-start penalty, then failed to convert on a pass attempt – QB Riley Geyer couldn’t connect with receiver Adrian Larabbee.

The Rams turned over control on downs. But the Eagles ran just two plays – QB Will Ledbetter ran a keeper for seven yards and runningback Matty Babb pounded up the middle for a couple more – before fumbling.

Taking care of the ball proved problematic for both sides during the game. “What’d we turn it over, three?” Perkins said. “And they turned it over two? Yeah.”

Cony recovered, then capitalized on first down: Geyer ran all the way from Windham’s 20 into their end zone. The Rams fumbled the PAT snap, however; the scoreboard rolled ahead to 6-0.

Ben Elliott returned the ensuing kickoff to the Eagles’ 21, and a Cony offsides flag ushered Windham to the 26. Ledbetter hit Kaleb Cidre with a long pass rightward – but then Elliott fumbled: He launched into a fiery run up the right side only to lose the ball upon contact.

Windham’s second turnover of the night didn’t put them any further behind: Their defense thwarted Cony’s drive, forcing the Rams into a three-and-out.

But neither could the Eagles capitalize on their own next series. Elliott returned Cony’s punt beautifully – for roughly 30 yards, all the way to Cony’s 26; Ledbetter hooked up with Nick Garrison for 10 and Babb carried for a couple more. The Rams’ defense redoubled their efforts, though, chewing through Windham downs and earning the ball back at their own eight-yard line.

The contest remained a defensive battle deep into the second quarter, when Windham finally evened things up. Eagle Derek Palow hit Rams ball-carrier Jamal Cariglia low – almost scarily low; Palow’s hit upended Cariglia and tipped him over suplex-style. No flag flew, and Cariglia dropped the ball, returning control to Windham at Cony’s 13.

A nice Elliott carry helped the Eagles reach first and goal at the Rams’ one yard line; after that, Babb carried home a short rush TD. 6-6.

More defense, defense, defense followed: The sides took turns thwarting one another until late in the last quarter. The Eagles sacked Geyer for a third down, and Geyer overthrew for a fourth; Cony punted. Windham took over, first and 10 at their own 15. Babb ran for three, then nine more, but then the team’s momentum waned. The Rams batted a Ledbetter pass. Soon, Sean Cunniffe punted for the Eagles.

With just two minutes to play, Cony found a groove, began to move the ball more effectively: The Rams barreled from first and 10 at Windham’s 47, to the Eagles’ 20, to their nine, to their five, all on a battery of Cariglia and Geyer runs.

“I thought we did a good job,” Perkins said of the Rams’ final drive. “Hindsight, maybe I wish I banged a timeout, froze ‘em and cleaned up the block, but I don’t know. We played pretty well.”

Eagles tacklers Will Segler and Dylan Matheson played crucial roles in keeping Cony out of the end zone, and Babb covered a receiver expertly on a Geyer pass try – but the Rams still stalked within field-goal range.

11.3 seconds remained; Douin kicked – and split the uprights. 9-6 Cony.

Windham had just about seven seconds to work with. The Rams’ kickoff landed out-of-bounds, handing the Eagles first and 10 at their own 35. Ledbetter lofted up a long ball, rightward, for Cidre to reel in – but a Cony defender tightly harangued him, and Cidre couldn’t make the grab. Time expired.

Babb’s performance on the night – on both sides of the ball, but especially on offense – deserves props. Running, he found gap after gap and more than once simply refused fall down, nevermind that two, three, four, five Rams might be latched onto him.

“His vision was great, his cuts were great,” Perkins said, asked about Babb’s work. “He really was seeing where he had to go and making that step and getting there.”

Ledbetter looked respectable on the night as well. He accrued decent yardage on the run, and connected on a number of sharp passes. That’s especially satisfying to see, given he’s just a sophomore. Windham features seven sophomore starters, in fact.

“We’re young,” Perkins reiterated. “We had some growing pains tonight where we made some mistakes that we’ve just got to fix.”

Windham drops to 3-2. At 3-1, the Eagles occupied first in B North; even at 3-2, they only drop to third. Brunswick and Cony, both 5-0, occupy first and second respectively.

“Defensively, as a whole, we played very well against an offense that’s pretty good,” Perkins said. “I thought our d just was electric tonight. [Cony scores] 30, 40 points a game. Young defense really stood up and did a lot of things to handle it and give ourselves a chance.”

Windham hosts TA, No. 1 in Class A, on Friday the 11th.

Anthony Gugliuzza lines up for Windham. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Matty Babb turned in a stellar effort on Friday night. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Derek Palow runs for Windham. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Windham QB Will Ledbetter runs a keeper. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Nick Garrison lines up for the Eagles. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

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