Wells tops Foxcroft in Class D championship, 22-21 with late touchdown and conversion
LEWISTON — After trailing 21-0 at the half Wells High School came back with 22 unanswered points, including a touchdown and game-winning 2-point conversion on a short completion with 19 seconds remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter, to defeat Foxcroft Academy 22-21 in the 2023 Class D championship on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 18 on the turf at Lewiston High School’s Don Roux Field.
The loss in the battle of the North and South top seeds ended the Ponies’ bid for a 3-peat and also brought to an the program’s 18-game winning streak dating back to a 14-13 defeat vs. Lisbon High School in week three (Sept. 23) of the 2022 season. Wells (8-3) also became only the second team to defeat Foxcroft (10-1) since tackle football resumed in 2021 (a 31-2 run).
After two seasons of having just a single division in Class D with around 10 teams, in 2023 Class D was split into North and South regions for the first time since 2019 with 13 total schools playing in the smallest class among 11-player programs.
With the score 21-14 in favor of Foxcroft with just under eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Pony senior Gage Beaudry brought a kickoff back to the Foxcroft 36-yard line but a personal foul call on Wells moved the ball inside Warrior territory to the 49. Beaudry then gained seven yards on the ground — he rushed for a team-high 102 yards in 12 carries— and a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct gave Foxcroft 15 more yards and a first down at the 27. Beaudry then rushed for 15 yards to get inside the red zone.
Wells turned the ball over four times in the opening half, with three of the turnovers leading to Foxcroft touchdowns, as well as another time on a third-quarter fumble. After the final such miscue by the opposition the Ponies turned the ball over twice including an end zone pick late in the third quarter. On 1st-and-10 at the 12-yard line the ball fell to the turf in the backfield and Wells made the recovery at the team’s own 17.
Seven plays moved the Warrior offense down the field before an apparent touchdown was called back due to an illegal blindside block. With the football moved back to the Foxcroft-27, Wells used a few more running plays to get inside the 5 and a facemask call on Foxcroft set the offense up with a 1st-and-goal at the 2.
On first down Foxcroft senior Hunter McSorley burst through the line of scrimmage and dropped Wells senior Connor Whitten in the backfield back to the 5. Warrior junior Eli Potter followed with four yards, but McSorley followed with a 2-yard tackle for loss on Potter to set up a 4th-and-goal at the Foxcroft 3-yard line as Wells called timeout with 24 seconds on the clock. Foxcroft followed with a timeout upon seeing the Warrior formation before the play.
After being under center for nearly the entire game, Wells senior Brooks Fox lined up several yards behind his center. He took the snap and threw a short pass to Whitten at the goal line to get Wells within one at 21-20 with 19 seconds on the clock.
The Wells offense stayed on the field rather than the PAT team coming on — the Warriors would miss a kick after the team’s first touchdown of the day. Fox again was in the shotgun and he looked to pass on the conversion play. He and Whitten connected on another completion to put Wells ahead 22-21 behind 22 unanswered points to complete the comeback.
The 22 points are the most given up by the Ponies all season, who entered with a 497-41 point differential including giving up more than eight just once (14 points) and posting five consecutive shutouts in the regular season.
“We had a couple of turnovers and they made some good adjustments and were able to run the ball a bit more effectively, particularly the right side of our defense, the left side of their offense,” Foxcroft head coach Danny White, whose team could not get the beyond Wells-40 on the game’s final possession, said. “They took advantage of a couple of things and we had a hard time tackling No. 21 (Whitten who gained 140 yards in 22 attempts) particularly off the edge and credit to them for making that adjustment.”
“I thought we were going to get it off that kickoff and off those two penalties,” he said about the fourth quarter drive that got into the red area. “Gage was leaning on them just a little bit and then we had that fumble and that miscue and sometimes that’s what it is. We haven’t had that many miscues this season, a tough time to have it. They made a great play on the touchdown and the 2-point play.”
“We had a tough break on the goaline,” White said about the play late in the third quarter when the officials huddled and ruled that Wells had made an interception inside the end zone rather than the Pony receiver having a touchdown. A score for Foxcroft would have made the score 27-6 before the PAT attempt rather than 21-6 and with a Wells touchback.
“I think we had a touchdown there and that puts us in a pretty good position but that’s a tough one,” White said. “Those things happen and it’s part of the game and we just couldn’t get that answer in the second half.”
The state championship was a tale of two halves with Foxcroft jumping out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
A Fox pass was tipped on the opening drive and Pony junior Silas Topolski made the interception at about his team’s own 10 before returning it 20 yards. Eight plays later senior quarterback Wyatt Rayfield found Topolski open over the middle and Topolski ran down the left sideline for the touchdown. A PAT by sophomore Aiden Harvey made the score 7-0.
Wells fumbled away the ensuing kickoff with the Ponies recovering at the Warrior-28. On first down Rayfield found Beaudry wide open for a 28-yard touchdown and 14 points in less than 30 seconds of game time. The quarterback finished with 164 yards on 10-of-17 passing with the two touchdowns and one interception.
Late in the opening quarter Topolski picked off another tipped ball as he returned the interception from about the Pony-25 to the Wells-37.
On a 4th-and-3 from the 30-yard Beaudry found a hole up the middle and he cut right for the touchdown to help put Foxcroft ahead 21-0 at the 10:21 mark in the second quarter. Wells had previously given up just 25 points in a half dozen 2023 games vs. Class D opponents for a 222-25 point differential.
Beaudry is one of 14 seniors on the roster, a group White praised postgame.
“We’re just so proud of them, they did everything the right way,” he said. “What they were able to accomplish over these past three seasons, it’s hard to put into words. They mean so much to the community, they mean so much to us as coaches, and the underclassmen really learned from them what it means to put in the work and to put themselves into position to be successful.
“Sometimes you run into an opponent you come up short against. What a football game, but I’m so proud of those kids for what they did.”
“I want to thank that group of kids and their families, they really kind of took it to another level for us programmatically and the underclass, that’s a tough act to follow,” White said. “They showed what it takes to put in that kind of work and put themselves into position to be champions three times. This loss certainly doesn’t define them, what they were able to accomplish over their careers was really historic for our program and for many programs across the state. I couldn’t be more proud of that group of kids and their families for their support.”
In the more than six decades the Maine Principals’ Association has recognized state champions Foxcroft has appeared in 18 finals with the team playing in different classes over the 60-plus years based on enrollment and/or the number of divisions offered by the MPA. The Ponies are now 8-10 in these finales, which includes falling to Wells in the 2017 and 2018 Class D championships at 48-0 and 55-20 respectively.
The Ponies were part of a four-way tie for the Class D title in 1963 based on regular season records and had sole possession of the 1983 Class D championship. Foxcroft claimed Class C championships in 1967, 1996, 2003, 2007, and 2012 before winning the Class D title in 2021 for the school’s first back-to-back title on the gridiron.
This year Foxcroft was in the state championship for the third year in a row for the second time in program history. The Ponies played in the 2005-07 games with Lisbon High School winning the 2005 and 2006 gold balls and Foxcroft defeating Boothbay Regional High School in the third game of this run.
Wells, which this season moved back down to Class D after three years in Class C, won its sixth state championship overall. In addition to 2023 and 2017-18 the program earned Class C honors in 2016 and Class B titles in 2011 and 1997. The Warriors have been to nine football finals, falling in the Class B championship in 1987, 1992, and 1993.
Foxcroft team members are seniors Phillip Bagley, Gage Beaudry, Jack Caruso, Matt Fillmore, Shane Gallo, Devin Henderson, Jacob Johnson, Kemsley Marsters, Hunter McSorley, Wyatt Rayfield, Jadon Richard, Jackson Smith, Logan Walston, and Kaiden Whitten; juniors Cody Bagley, Silas Topolski, and Jaxson Zimmerman; sophomores Aiden Bryant, Griffin Caruso, Aiden Harvey, Finn Holmes, Isaiah Page, Lucas Sands, Isaac Sinclair, Landon Smith, Beckett Taylor, and Daniel Turgeon; freshmen Thomas Day, Steven Li, Kain Niland, Garrett Rogers, Evan Seavey, Aiden Sickler, Colby Simmons, Eamon Vandermast, Hunter Whitten, Tyler Wing, and Kaleb Worthing; coaches Ryan Dankert, Dave Henderson, Chris McGary, Mike Niles, Austin Seavey, Ryan Taylor, and Gary Worthing, and head coach Danny White.
Class D championship
Wells 22, Foxcroft 21
FOX 14 7 0 0 – 21
WEL 0 0 6 16 – 22
First: F – Topolski 41 yds from Rayfield (Harvey kick); F – Beaudry 28 yds from Rayfield (Harvey kick)
Second: F – Beaudry 30 yds (Harvey kick)
Third: W – Whitten 21 yds (kick wide left)
Fourth: W – Potter 1 yd (Rooney from Whitten); W – Whitten 3 yds from Fox (Whitten from Fox)
Passing: F – Rayfield 10-of-17 164 yds 2 TD Int; W – Fox 8-of-15 175 yds TD 3 Int; Whitten 0-of-0
Receiving: F – Beaudry 6, 52 yds TD; Topolski 2, 74 yds TD; Richard 2, 38 yds; W – Murphy 5, 140 yds; Whitten 2, 15 yds TD; Potter 1, 10 yds
Rushing: F – Beaudry 12, 102 yds TD; Rayfield 5, 22 yds; Holmes 1, 6 yds; Richard 1, 5 yds; W – Whitten 22, 140 yds TD; Potter 18, 81 yds TD; Davis 1, 9 yds; Buxton 3, 8 yds; Carbonneau 4, 6 yds
Records: F – 10-1, W – 8-3