YORK — If one tackle in the second quarter can change a game, Wells High senior Michael Thiffault may have delivered it Friday night at York in a Class C South quarterfinal.

The host Wildcats were having their way, ahead 21-0, and had just intercepted a pass to stop Wells’ best drive at the York 4. Wells had done little on offense, with two turnovers and numerous penalties. Meanwhile, York had scored on three straight possessions, giving them 50 straight points against Wells going back to last week’s come-from-behind win at Wells.

On first down, Thiffault flew into an apparent hole and leveled York back Caleb Pappagallo for no gain. York ended up punting. Five plays later, Wells was on the board thanks to Conner Whitten’s 27-yard burst. Then, behind a punishing defense that scored the final clinching touchdown and forced turnovers on York’s final three possessions, Wells pulled out a 35-27 win.

“I feel that play really did make a difference,” Thiffault said. “It helped the defense get more energy into it. We had to bring the rest of the energy. We had to finish it off. We had a tough loss last week so we had to finish it off.”

No. 5 Wells (5-4) will play at unbeaten Leavitt, the No. 1 seed, in the semifinals. York finished 4-4.

Wells lost at home to Leavitt during the regular season, 41-0. It was Wells’ third game of the season and Leavitt’s first. The Hornets had a 587-36 edge in yardage.

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“It’s going to be tough, but these boys have heart and I think we can do it,” said Whitten, a sophomore back who rushed for 77 yards on 24 carries.

Whitten scored on a 3-yard run, lunging and leaning for the final yard, to gave Wells a 28-27 lead with 2:37 left. It capped a 55-yard drive that featured a third-and-7 completion from Brady Fox to Griffin Brickett, setting up first-and-goal.

That was the most important drive of the game. York had just hit on its one big play in the second half, a 67-yard touchdown from Luke Doughty (10 of 18, 211 yards, three TDs) to Jake Fogg.

After Wells regained the lead, Whitten scooped and scored on an 18-yard fumble recovery when Doughty couldn’t handle a bad snap with 1:57 to play. On York’s next possession, Eli Steere intercepted a pass, and on the final play of the game with York on its own 20, Wells forced another fumble, recovered by Gavyn Petrie.

“We responded big. We responded huge,” said Wells Coach Tim Roche.

York dominated the first quarter, with Doughty throwing touchdown passes of 25 yards to Pappagallo and a beautiful deep ball that dropped right into the hands of Zach Strand on a fly pattern for a 41-yard score.

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Early in the second quarter, Doughty snuck in from the 1 to finish another drive.

But after Thiffault’s hit, momentum shifted. Whitten scored the first Wells touchdown. York’s next possession ended when punter Will Orso, a two-way lineman, opted to run after handling a low, wide snap and was tackled for a 12-yard loss at the Wildcat 14. Wells converted on a Fox to Petrie 17-yard pass to cut the lead to 21-13 just before halftime.

In the third quarter, Wells got a safety, set up by a Michael Lewinski punt that was downed by Brickett at the 2.

Wells took its first lead, 22-21, after a 36-yard punt return by Whitten set up the Warriors at the 4, with Fox sneaking in from the 1.

“You have to give credit to Wells,” said York Coach Matt Nelson. “They were making the plays. I’m proud of the way my guys played. When they started to get the momentum, it was hard to stop.”


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