WINDHAM—Despite stepping up their play in a big way for the second half vs. visiting Skowhegan on Friday night, Nov. 1, the Eagles – unexpectedly – never got on the board.

Skowhegan, meanwhile, got on the board early and big, and thereby earned themselves a postseason triumph – and a berth in the next round.

27-0.

“Oh yeah,” Windham head coach Matt Perkins said, asked if he’d scouted Skowhegan before the game. (The teams didn’t meet during the regular season.) “We knew they throw the ball around and do a really good job on their offense. Their quarterback did a nice job, they made some big plays – third and long, a guy tips the ball to himself and gets a big play.”

27-0 is a bit surprising if for no other reason than the sides’ respective records: Both Windham and Skowhegan took to the field for the bout at 4-4. The Eagles had homefield advantage because they entered the tournament ranked fourth in B North, while Skowhegan entered a slot back, ranked fifth.

To be fair, Windham remains young: Exactly half a dozen seniors dot the squad’s roster; those boys are far outnumbered by their freshmen and sophomore teammates. On the upside, while this autumn ends for the Eagles in an ugly defeat, the future holds good things in store for them.

“Our senior leadership is small,” Perkins said. “But their leadership and how they act as people and their work ethic in school and the community is really impressive. They’ve done a nice job of leading the way for these young guys.”

Anthony Gugliuzza, Matty Babb, Ben Elliott, Jayden Gonsalves, Will Segler II and Ian Swann comprise the Eagles’ senior contingent. Beyond their leadership, Perkins praised their work on the field vs. Skowhegan: “The seniors played their tails off,” he said. “Gave it everything they had, as you’d expect from this group.”

Skowhegan grabbed a pair of touchdowns in the very early going, but only managed to split the uprights for a PAT on one of their two opportunities: 13-0. The visitors then wasted no time retaking possession from their hosts, grabbing an interception off backup QB Harrison Boyle on Windham’s next drive. (Eagles starting QB Will Ledbetter missed the game with an injury.)

From there, Skowhegan continued putting points on the board. QB Cam Green pushed his boys to first and 10 at the Eagle’s 29 on a keeper, then slung to teammate Tyler Annis for a completion. Momentarily, Green carried Skowhegan’s third TD of the night, a five-yarder, over the Windham goal line. Another extra point followed: 19-0.

“I don’t think we played aggressive enough in the first half,” Perkins said. “They were the aggressor and when you’re the aggressor, good things happen, from turnovers that they got – whether fumbles or whatever it is – and they were quick off the line, they beat us in the trenches on both sides. They got to the ball quicker than we did, penetrated and caused turnovers.”

Skowhegan squib-kicked – a squib kick resembles an onside kick – on the ensuing kickoff; Windhamite Nick Garrison grabbed the ball for first and 10 at the Eagles’ own 38. Boyle tried a keeper, but gained no ground, then connected with receiver Kaleb Cidre for a six-yard pickup. Boyle fumbled on third down, however, and Skowhegan recovered.

Green proceeded to fire off completions to Mason Fitzgerald, Marcus Hampton, and Cam Louder; Cidre and Babb provided coverage during the stretch, but it was no more their night than it was any other Eagle’s. Green soon fumbled – but recovered the ball himself; he then handed off for Fitzgerald at Windham’s six, and Fitzgerald carried the ball home. 27-0.

“One thing after another,” Perkins said of the evening. “You know, fumble on the ground and we think we’ve got a turnover – and it goes the other way. It’s one of those things: Kids played hard, and tonight wasn’t our night. I’m proud of this group and where they come from, and the work ethic, and most of all their character.”

A mere 32.1 seconds remained in the first half. Skowhegan squib-kicked a second time, and their own Quintcey McCray fell on the ball. 18 seconds later, Cidre picked off a long, deep pass attempt by Green, perhaps teaching Skowhegan an important lesson about not overzealously trying to run up the score. Still, the Eagles couldn’t capitalize on the takeaway – rather, they didn’t try, and merely kneeled their way into the break.

Windham cranked their defense up a notch or 10 for the latter quarters; the Eagles didn’t give up another point for the rest of the evening. Boyle and Max Marshall combined for a key tackle on Green in an early Skowhegan drive, and Elliot absolutely steamrolled into Louder after Green hit him with a completion. Elliot’s contact forced Louder to cough up a fumble, which Elliot promptly recovered.

Colby Mizner, now slinging for Windham, found Anthony Gugliuzza and Jason Scott for short connections, but then suffered a sack, resulting in a fourth and seven. Mizner found Gugliuzza again, however, snatching first down from the jaws of a turnover.

Boyle returned to QB for the Eagles in the fourth, and connected on a handful of nice passes – most notable among them a 32-yarder rightward for Garrison, who turned in an impressive effort on the catch.

Still, Windham just never found their way into Skowhegan’s end zone, and the final buzzer tolled on a Skowhegan victory. The Eagles conclude their 2019 at 4-5.

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