The Mt. Ararat High High School football team holds the Gold Ball after capturing the Maine 8-Man title on Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. (Eric Maxim / The Times Record)

PORTLAND — It seemed like a long time coming, but well worth the wait as Mt. Ararat High School won its first-ever football Gold Ball with a 58-25 victory over Old Orchard Beach behind the legs of senior running back Holden Brannan to capture Maine’s inaugural State 8-Man Championship at Fitzpatrick Stadium on Saturday.

Brannan rushed for a whopping 379 yards with seven touchdowns in leading the Eagles to the win.

“This is unbelievable. We set this goal at the beginning of the year and worked really hard to achieve it and it feels amazing to achieve a goal you set,” Brannan said. “I had no idea what the game plan was going to be, it just so happened we found success with these plays. Importantly though, none of that would have happened without my teammates and the blocks they gave. All the credit goes to them, I couldn’t be more thankful to them and the coaching staff.”

Mt. Ararat’s Holden Brannan drives with the football against Old Orchard Beach on Saturday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald)

“Once I met with the team and we set some goals and expectations, it all started when we got into camp,” Mt. Ararat head coach Frank True said. “We worked our way through, had some bumps along the way, but the kids followed the process the right way and I couldn’t be happier for them.”

After beating Yarmouth, 52-20, in the 8-Man Large division semifinal and avenging their only two regular season losses by defeating Maranacook, 36-14, in the final, the Eagles were poised for a quick start on the speedy turf.

After stopping OOB inside the Mt. Ararat 10-yard line, the Eagles wasted no time pounding the ball. Three lugs by Riley Morin resulted in 33 yards and a 1st-and-10 on their own 41. Quarterback Cam Wallace handed off to Brannan and the speedster was off like the wind for a 59-yard score. Morin added the rush for the 2-point conversion and a quick 8-0 Mt. Ararat lead.

“A lot of teams have been game planning for number 31 (Morin) so we were featuring 11 (Brannan) today, he was incredible,” True said. “They’ve been keying Morin a lot, so we got into a balance and set some stuff and featured 11. We opened up the O-line, opened up the holes and he was off to the races.”

After the Mt. Ararat defense snuffed out a fake punt by the Seagulls, it took Brannan just two plays to find the end zone again, scoring on a 50-yard run. The Eagles defense came up big again, forcing a punt, and four plays later Brannan scored once again, this time from 68-yards out for an Eagles 22-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Brannan finished the 12-minute quarter with 164 yards and three scores.

OOB was forced to punt again to begin the second quarter and Eagles continued doing what they do best. Carries by Morin and Brannan pushed the ball over midfield and once again, Brannan found the holes created by the offensive line and his running back-mate Morin and streaked down the sidelines for a 45-yard score and a 28-0 Mt. Ararat lead.

“We showed a lot today. We showed that Mt. Ararat football is back and we have grit,” a smiling Morin said.

Mt. Ararat’s Holden Brannan breaks away from Old Orchard Beach defenders for one of his four first half touchdowns Saturday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald) 

OOB gained some momentum with a score on the ensuing drive, led by the rushing of Jacob Payea and arm of Jaden Davies. After getting inside the Mt. Ararat 15-yard line, Davies connected with Ryan Crockett on a fourth-and-12 for a touchdown to put the Seagulls on the board.

An onside kick was recovered by OOB, and on its first play, Davies threw to Crockett who lateraled to Payea, who then ran down the sidelines for a 47-yard score on the old “hook-and-ladder” play. Another failed attempt at the 2-point conversion left the Seagulls trailing, 28-12.

The Eagles (9-2), who beat OOB 46-8 during the regular season, fumbled on their first snap after the kickoff and OOB had the ball again inside Mt. Ararat territory. Davies led the home team down the field and following a flea-flicker from Davies to Crockett for 24 yards, Payea plunged into the end zone as time expired for a 1-yard score, cutting the Eagle lead to 28-18 at the half.

“The way our kids responded in that second quarter, that’s why you coach. That’s what you look for,” said OOB coach Dean Plante. “For the kids to bounce back like that was pretty impressive. It was nice for us to respond and show that we could compete.”

More Brannan

Mt. Ararat’s Cameron Wallace is hoisted up by teammate Cody Holman after Mt. Ararat won the 8-man football state championship Saturday Nov. 16, 2019. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/ Portland Press Herald)

As if Brannan’s 245 yards and four touchdowns in the first half weren’t enough, the back scored his fifth touchdown of the day, scampering into the end zone by avoiding a pair of tacklers for a 26-yard score. He converted the 2-point conversion and the Eagles were doubling up the Seagulls, 36-18.

OOB (7-4) was stopped again with tackles by Bryce LaFrance and Morin, forcing the Seagulls to punt. On the first Eagles snap following the punt, Morin ran for a 29-yard gain, setting up another Brannan score and a 44-18 Eagles lead midway through the third quarter.

The Seagulls managed one more score — a 62-yard pass play from Davies to Payea with an extra point from Florian Buergi late in the third quarter — but did not find the end zone again. A fourth-quarter sack by Mt. Ararat’s Keegan Furtado with six minutes left gave the Eagles the ball back.

Brannan broke free for one more touchdown run, this one from 67-yards out and Morin found pay dirt with a 19-yard score of his own to round out the Eagles scoring. Morin finished with 145 yards on the ground while making seven tackles on defense. Brannan and Morin combined for 524 yards and eight touchdowns.

“It’s not so fun being the quarterback when you have Riley and Holden as your running backs,” laughed Eagles quarterback Wallace. “But this season was unlike any other as we have bonded so much this year. In the past years, sometimes it was hard to get up after getting knocked down, but this year we’ve really come together. I don’t want to go to sleep because this feels like a dream. It’s so special after years of terrible seasons. We’re bringing a culture back here and it’s so special.”

And Wallace wasn’t the only one pointing out the newfound culture at Mt. Ararat.

Mt. Ararat captains Riley Morin (31) and Danny Jackson hoist the trophy after winning the 8-man football state championship Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald)

“It’s huge winning this. Nothing like this has ever happened at our school,” Brannan said. “This is a culture changer, I hope this builds our program and the guys after us follow in our foot steps.”

And for underclassmen like LaFrance, who led the team with 11 tackles, the future lies ahead for them.

“This was a great experience. This gives us confidence and hopefully we can come back here next year,” said the junior.


Mt. Ararat 58, OOB 25
State 8-Man Championship
At Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland
Mt. Ararat —  22  6  16 14 — 58
Old Orchard Beach —  0  18   7   0 — 25
First quarter
MtA — Holden Brannan 59 run (Riley Morin rush), 6:36.
MtA — Holden Brannan 50 run (rush failed), 3:46.
MtA — Holden Brannan 68 run (Riley Morin rush), 0:33.
Second quarter
MtA — Holden Brannan 45 run (rush failed), 8:28.
OOB — Ryan Crockett 12 pass from Jaden Davies (rush fail), 4:04.
OOB — Jacob Payea 47 pass from Jaden Davies (pass fail), 3:53.
OOB — Jacob Payea 1 run (pass failed), 0:00.
Third quarter
MtA — Holden Brannan 26 run (Holden Brannan run), 10:07.
MtA — Holden Brannan 4 run (Holden Brannan run), 6:23.
OOB — Jacob Payea 62 pass from Jaden Davies (Florian Buergi kick), 4:52.
Fourth Quarter
MtA — Holden Brannan 67 run (rush failed), 8:57.
MtA — Riley Morin 19 run (Riley Morin run), 4:25.
Records — Mt. Ararat 9-2, Old Orchard Beach, 7-4.
Note — Mt. Ararat wins the inaugural Maine 8-Man State Championship.

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