The first time, the Windham Eagles 6-3 faced the 4-5 Chevrus Stags was the season closer on October 22nd in which the Eagles won 13-12. The stage had been set. That victory secured a playoff berth in the Class-A North Tournament and a bye week going into the quarterfinal playoff game that was played last Friday. In a game filled with near misses on the offensive side, the two defenses provided fans with a low scoring battle. The Windham Eagles would outlast the Stags and walk away with an exciting 9-7 victory.
Head coach Matt Perkins’ team was prepared, taking away lessons from their previous meeting. To summarize he said, “We have to clean things up, do better in certain areas. We didn’t execute well on third down. Offensively we didn’t sustain our blocks very well so linebackers got through pretty easily last time."
The Stags also learned from that game as well and made their own adjustments. To counter that, “We have to recognize what they are doing and come in with things a little different. It’s just like a chess game,” continued Perkins.
Defense proved to be the theme in this match up. No real sustained drive was achieved until just seconds remaining in the first quarter when the Eagles took the ball down inside the Stags 10-yard line threatening to score. However an errant pass by Desmond Leslie was intercepted by the Stags Dominic Casale and returned for a touchdown. A successful conversion made the score 7-0 going into the second quarter.
The Eagles would eventually score on a field goal by Liam McCuster with 8:47 left in the second quarter cutting the lead to 7-3.
Near the end of the half the Eagles punted the ball away. Starting from their own 7-yard line the Stags failed to make a first down, in between wise decisions by Perkins to call two time outs to stop the clock, giving his team one more shot of scoring before the half. However, the Stags defense answered and although close enough, the field goal attempt went wide right and a bit short. The Eagles would go to the locker room down 7-3.
The second half saw once again defense would prevail on both sides. Then with just under 5 minutes remaining big yardage completions to Griffeth Heber from Desmond Leslie set up Kyle Houser for a 5-yard scramble into the end zone. The conversion failed and the quarter would end but the Eagles now led 9-7.
Chevrus did manage to make one push on the final drive of the game and drove down to the Eagles 7-yard line with time running out. Two key Eagles defensive plays stalled the drive forcing the Stags kicker Chandler Hartigan to attempt what would have been a game winning 22-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the game. The Windham defense would have no part of it. Nazari Henderson penetrated the offensive line and blocked the kick, sealing the Eagles victory. The final score of 9-7 sent the fans into frenzy.
In hindsight the score may have been higher on the side of the Eagles but a dropped pass in the end zone and several other key passes either missed their mark or were mishandled. This was attributed to the nerves of a young team who have not been in this pressure situation before.
“Just one of those things with big moments; some of these guys haven’t been in big moments; its part of the excitement of getting to the next round,” confirmed Perkins. But the defense made up the deficit keeping the Stags in check.
Unlike previous games this one was almost totally devoid of penalties. After the game there was time to reflect. “The game was played the way it should be; aggressive and downhill on both sides,” said Perkins. It was also the time to speak of the team’s readiness for the next game to which Perkins replied with confidence “We will be.”
The next game is the regional final of this tournament and will be away against the 9-1 Portland Bulldogs on Friday, Nov. 11th.