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Cougars make playoffs with victory
BETHEL -- Ben Holmes was a master of all trades by scoring several different ways, offensive and defensively, and intercepting three passes as the Dirigo football team clinched a playoff berth with a convincing 54-6 win over Telstar in a regular-season finale.
It was the first-ever contest between the two programs who are headed in two separate directions.
“There was a lot on the line,” said Holmes, who was successful at kicking all six of his extra point tries in his first-ever debut. “We knew that a win would earn a playoff berth and we got that done on our own.”
Dirigo (4-4) is the seventh seed and will travel to No. 2 Traip Saturday.
Telstar actually led on quarterback Dom Haynes pass to Drew Wilson for a 13-yard TD on the opening possession of the game. The Rebels gambled and converted twice on fourth downs during the 70-yard drive.
Dirigo wasn’t fazed and on the ensuing possession, Holmes ran in a 16-yard TD and kicked the PAT. The Cougars led 7-6 and never looked back.
Telstar’s Austin Ryerson returned the kickoff to the Dirigo 35-yard line, but the defense held on fourth down. Holmes connected with Reilly Lombardi for a 20-yard TD. Brian Blackman (167 yards, 15 rushes) ran behind the offensive line (306 yards rushing) for a 31-yard TD for a 21-6 lead at halftime.
“We wanted to establish the run up the middle,” said Dirigo coach Dave Crutchfield. “We had been having trouble getting off the line of scrimmage. But today the big thing for us was everybody started working together.”
Telstar ended the season winless, after having played a varsity schedule for the first time in over three decades. The Rebels biggest highlight was on special teams, returning four kickoffs into Cougar territory, including three by Nick Mills. Tyler Cherkis intercepted a pass.
In the third quarter, Telstar staged a goal-line stand on the one. Three plays later, Holmes stepped in front of a Rebel receiver and ran into the end zone. Holmes picked off another pass and Blackman scored his second TD on a 40-yard run.
“We really didn’t do anything differently to capitalize on defense,” said Dirigo linebacker Jake Dowland. “Everyone did their job and worked together. We really needed this win because we had lost three in a row (two in overtime).”
Nelson Pepin had three sacks and Zack White had two sacks. Caleb Hall returned an interception for a TD. Tyler Frost and Joe Casey completed the scoring with runs of 18 and two yards, respectively.