OLD TOWN — The Camden Hills varsity football team was not originally slated to play Friday, Sept. 6. While other teams around the state were set to be enjoying their first regular season football contests, the Windjammers had been scheduled to have the week off.
Thanks to a schedule re-shuffle, however, the Class D Windjammers (1-0) found themselves on the road challenging the Old Town Coyotes (0-1), a Class C program, when Old Town found themselves with an open date due to Orono opting not to field a varsity team this season.
At first, it appeared the ‘Jammers did not get the notice of the new schedule. In just over four minutes of play, a 70 yard Coyote touchdown run, a kickoff recovery where a ‘Jammer failed to fall on the ball, then an immediate 33 yard screen pass completion for another touchdown left a 14-0 deficit on the scoreboard.
The concerns quickly subsided, however, once the ‘Jammers took possession on the ensuing kickoff at their own 44 yard line and initiated a sequence that would set the tone for the remainder of the contest.
From there, Camden Hills scored 34 unanswered points en route to a 40-21 victory over the hosts.
"Having had no pre-season scrimmages we knew the first quarter would be difficult," said Camden Hills head coach Jeremy Marks. "However the boys found their rhythm and poise."
Camden Hills sophomore quarterback Ryan Clifford completed 3-of-4 passes for short gains and a 14 yard end around by junior wide receiver Ben Craft put the team at the Coyote 26 yard line.
Camden Hills sophomore tailback Hunter Norton took the pitch from Clifford around the right end, stiff-armed a defender to the ground, and raced down the sideline for his first of three touchdowns on the day bringing the score to 14-8 following a successful two-point conversion to senior tight end Aedan Kehoe, a co-captain.
Two plays following the kickoff, the Coyotes went for a deep bomb close to the home team's sideline. The pass was overthrown into the well-positioned waiting arms of Camden Hills sophomore cornerback Mason Chadwick who returned the ball 21 yards before being tackled out of bounds at the Coyotes 41 yard line.
Immediately, Norton took a similar pitch as his earlier touchdown for a 23 yard gain to inside the Coyote 15 yard line. A few plays later from the 21 yard line, Clifford wisely avoided recognized a collapsing pocket, stepping into a touchdown strike to senior tight end Stuart McNaughton to tie the game at 14.
"I think we just needed to have a sense of what playing together would look like,” said Marks. “This was our first opportunity to truly play as team against another opponent. We knew that we had guys that could play we just needed to see it in motion.”
Future big plays on offense would come in the shape of an off-tackle 82 yard touchdown jaunt by Norton, a 60 yard visitors sideline punt return for a touchdown by Craft and a memorable 49 yard catch and run from Clifford to Norton which witnessed Norton dragging two Coyote players for roughly 10 yards down to the 1 yard line setting up a Clifford quarterback sneak to turn the scoreboard once again, 34-14 ‘Jammers.
While Norton (17 carries, 171 yards, three touchdowns) may wind up with the week's headlines, Marks noted the Windjammer defensive unit lead by senior linebacker and co-captain Brady Hedstrom created five turnovers, including four interceptions and a fumble recovery, thus assuring the opportunities for its young offense.
"The defense played well, and I was pleased in general with how we played but we have a lot of work ahead of us and need to stay humble as this is just one of eight games to be played this year," Marks added. "Winthrop is a [heck] of team who are extremely well coached. We will need to play at our best to come away with another [victory.]”
Others to secure interceptions were junior cornerback Landen Donato-Stearns (also forced fumble), linebacker and co-captain Scott Jorgensen, and freshman safety Louise Mainella.
Hedstrom added a 26 yard run from his tailback position late in the game for good measure.
The Windjammers will look to challenge Winthrop/Monmouth, regarded by many to be a Class D favorite, for an early homecoming showdown at Don Palm Field in Rockport on Friday, Sept. 13. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m., marking the first of two night games for the Windjammers this season.
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