ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth/Sumner football team doesn’t care to think much about its Week 3 loss to Mount Ararat. In fact, head coach Duane Crawford has six words for it: “Flush that one down the toilet.”
Entering its Sept. 21 road contest in Topsham, Ellsworth/Sumner, which already had one of the state’s smallest rosters with 14 players, had practiced with only 10 in the days leading up to the game. Facing one of the state’s top eight-man teams in the afternoon heat with several players sick or injured and others having not practiced throughout the week, the Eagles succumbed to a 62-22 defeat.
When the Eagles returned to practice Monday, though, that game was the last thing on their minds. Ellsworth/Sumner’s sidelined players were all cleared to return to action, and with four newcomers joining the team and a home game upcoming, there was a different feeling in the air as the team continued to pursue an elusive win.
What a difference a week makes.
Ellsworth/Sumner cruised to its first win of the season and first-ever win in eight-man play Friday night with a 42-0 victory over Sacopee Valley at Ellsworth High School. The result came as the Eagles fielded a fully healthy team for the first time this year and got a boost in numbers that has a chance to pay major dividends down the road.
“We had all eight starters on the field and had guys who could go in and give them a break,” Crawford said. “This is the healthiest we’ve been and the best week we’ve had at practice, and that showed.”
Ellsworth/Sumner got the ball in good field position to start the game after recovering Sacopee Valley’s onside kick attempt at the 50-yard line. Three plays later, Connor Crawford gave the Eagles (1-3) a 6-0 lead when he sprinted 38 yards to the end zone for the opening score.
Although Ellsworth/Sumner’s second drive stalled, the Eagles capped off an 11-play, 45-yard drive on their third possession when Crawford scored from 1 yard out less than two minutes into the second quarter. Crawford then dove to break the plane by a matter of inches on the 2-point attempt to put Ellsworth/Sumner up 14-0 with what would be the final points of the half.
After forcing Sacopee Valley (1-3) to go three-and-out to begin the second half, Ellsworth/Sumner extended its lead to 20-0 as J’Von James took an end-around 66 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. The Eagles made it 28-0 on their next possession as Crawford found James open for a 26-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-11 and connected with his fellow senior again on the 2-point attempt.
“The [defender] came and pressed me, and I just did my job and ran the route,” James said. “We practiced it all week, and I just had to go out there, execute and make the play.”
The Eagles got the ball back late in the third as Adam Inman took an interception to the edge of the red zone, and Crawford capitalized by stretching the lead to 34-0 with his third rushing touchdown. Ellsworth/Sumner’s sixth and final score came with 10:18 left in the game as Noah Hughes found the end zone on a 9-yard run to send the game into running time.
Crawford led Ellsworth/Sumner with 122 rushing yards, and James had 95 on seven carries. Crawford also had eight total tackles and an interception on defense, and Hughes had three sacks.
The 42-0 final score marked Ellsworth/Sumner’s first shutout in eight seasons as a revived program. It also marked the Eagles’ biggest-ever home win and tied a 49-7 road win over Stearns/Schenck on Oct. 6, 2017, for the program’s biggest overall margin of victory.
Winning via shutout was a sign of significant progress defensively for Ellsworth/Sumner, which had allowed 112 points in its past two games entering Friday night. This performance came as the Eagles, finally at full strength, made a number of adjustments on the edges to stop the Sacopee Valley offense from making big plays.
“We had been getting beaten on the edge and not getting contain there over the past couple weeks, so our main focus this week was really setting that edge,” Connor Crawford said. “They weren’t beating us outside, so they had to beat us inside, and we were waiting right there for it.”
Ellsworth/Sumner’s next game will be on the road against Maranacook (4-0) at 7 p.m. next Friday, Oct. 4. Maranacook, the only team still undefeated in eight-man play, defeated Gray-New Gloucester 46-26 on Friday.
A win over Maranacook would catapult Ellsworth/Sumner into the thick of the eight-man playoff race. With four of the five large-school teams qualifying for this year’s state quarterfinals and four games left in the regular season, the Eagles still have a golden opportunity to make the postseason.
“I think it shows a lot that we can come back after such a bad loss like that and have such a nice win,” Connor Crawford said. “Now that we’re all healthy and have that first win, we’re all really confident. This is only going to keep pushing us forward.”
Bucksport rolls Mount View; Trojans fall to Dexter
Ellsworth/Sumner wasn’t the only local team to earn a shutout win Friday night as Bucksport improved to 4-0 with a 47-0 home win over Mount View (0-4).
Bucksport scored 41 points in the first half to put the game away before the junior varsity players came in to close out the win. The Golden Bucks have outscored opponents 185-13 over their first four games.
In Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island stuck with Dexter for much of its Week 4 contest Friday before the visiting Tigers (3-1) pulled away late in a 41-6 win. The Trojans fell to 1-3 with the loss.
Bucksport and MDI will return to action when they play on the road at 7 p.m. next Friday, Oct. 4. The Golden Bucks will face one of their stiffest challenges to date against Class C Hermon (3-1), and the Trojans will look to snap a three-game losing streak with a win over Waterville (0-4)