BANGOR, Maine — In a state-of-the-art high school football game that featured 54 pass attempts and 451 yards through the air, a 3-yard run was the key play Saturday night as John Bapst of Bangor outlasted Rockland 33-24 at Cameron Stadium.

That modest run by Bill Wetherbee came on fourth-and-two from the Bapst 42-yard line with 5:31 to play and gave the Crusaders a crucial first down that helped defuse an inspired Rockland comeback from a 27-8 third-quarter deficit.

John Bapst then used its newly regained momentum to add a badly needed insurance touchdown when Wetherbee scored from the 5 to give the Crusaders their final nine-point lead with 3:43 left.

“The way Rockland was throwing the ball, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind about going for it,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “They were starting to pick up momentum and were starting to make plays, and we weren’t getting as much pressure on the quarterback. I just thought we had to get it now, and fortunately our O-line from that play on stepped up huge.”

That old-school ending defied the new-age nature of the first 3½ quarters as both teams used spread offenses with three- and four-receiver sets to overwhelm the opposing defenses.

John Bapst’s Derek Smith hit 15 of 23 passes for 231 yards and three TDs, two to Wetherbee, who had nine catches for 175 yards and rushed for 66 yards on 18 carries.

Fullback Chase Huckestein added 140 rushing yards on 12 carries as the 2-1 Crusaders gained 243 of their 474 total yards on the ground.

That effort helped propel them to a seemingly comfortable lead after Coby Boutot scored on a 1-yard run to give Rockland an 8-0 edge one play after Sam Weiss intercepted a option pass by Huckestein on Bapst’s first possession of the game.

But Wetherbee made a juggling 33-yard touchdown catch with 2:33 left in the first quarter, and after Bapst called time with 2 seconds left in the period to keep the wind at his back, Doug Dieuveuil kicked a 28-yard field goal to give the Crusaders a 10-8 lead.

Smith threw two TD passes in the second quarter, a 51-yard strike to Wetherbee with 6:48 left and a 15-yarder to Chris Fogler to cap a 10-play, 80-yard march with 20.5 seconds to play as John Bapst took a 24-8 lead.

Dieuveuil kicked a 23-yard field goal 1:17 into the second half to give the Crusaders their largest lead before coach Woody Moore’s Rockland club mounted a major comeback.

Dylan Meklin (15 of 31 passing, 220 yards) hit Nick Baudanza with a 15-yard TD pass on the final play of the third quarter, and Meklin rushed for the two-point conversion after an alert lateral by Weiss, who had been stopped short of the goal line.

After Dieuveuil was short on a 33-yard field-goal try, Rockland drove 80 yards to close within 27-24. Meklin hit Baudanza and Dave McGuire on back-to-back completions of 28 and 27 yards before finding Baudanza for an 8-yard scoring strike with 6:51 to play.

Baudanza finished with seven catches for 132 yards for 1-2 Rockland. Weiss rushed for 46 yards on 10 carries.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...