BANGOR, Maine — With each week comes something new for the Hermon High School football program.
Last week marked the first postseason victory in Hawks history.
Now comes the team’s first trip to a regional championship game after second-seeded Hermon’s come-from-behind 20-13 victory over No. 3 Winslow in Friday night’s Class C North semifinal at Husson University.
The win sends Hermon (9-1) to next Saturday’s final at Hampden Academy against No. 4 Nokomis of Newport. The Warriors (6-4) shut out top-ranked and defending state champion Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield 13-0.
“We talked about going this far before the season, but we weren’t really prepared then,” said Hermon senior quarterback Garrett Trask. “But we worked harder down the road and here we are.”
Winslow (6-4) seemingly was in control after Rob Clark recovered a Hermon fumble on the second-half kickoff and scored on an 8-yard run four plays later to give the tradition-laden Black Raiders a 13-0 lead.
But a Hermon offense that generated only 64 first-half yards bounced back behind Trask. He rushed for 184 of his game-high 216 yards after intermission including touchdown runs of 4, 3 and 35 yards as the Hawks scored the game’s final 20 points.
Trask’s longest scoring run gave Hermon its only lead with 1:40 to play.
“In the first half I really didn’t run that hard but in the second half I kicked it up a gear and told myself I needed to run harder than that,” he said.
He was aided in that effort by classmate River Mullen, normally a starting halfback but limited in carries early in the game due to an injury suffered during Hermon’s 41-0 quarterfinal win over Oceanside of Rockland.
“A big change for us was putting River in the backfield,” said second-year Hermon coach Kyle Gallant. “He’s a missle, he always is. He’s unselfish. He’s been struggling with an injury, but he came out confident. He’s a phenomenal blocker.”
Mullen not only talked his way into the lineup for the second half, he delivered some devastating blocks that helped spring Trask past a Winslow defense that was waiting for the quarterback to make his move rather than attack the pocket.
“I told coach I wanted to go in. I was kind of mad and I needed it, so I told him I’d give it my all and I’d block for Bubba (Trask) all night,” said Mullen. “I stepped up, and so did our whole team.”
Winslow took the opening kickoff and marched 65 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on Colby Pomeroy’s 2-yard quarterback sneak just 2:30 into the contest.
But senior running back Ben Dorval, who had carried the ball on the Black Raiders’ first four plays from scrimmage, was injured during a collision with Hermon’s Keith Pomeroy at the end of a 33-yard run to the Hawks’ 20 and saw limited duty the rest of the way.
Winslow threatened to extend its lead on its next possession, but Dorval’s replacement, junior Isaiah Goldsmith, lost a fumble inside the Hermon 30 and the Hawks’ Sean Stark recovered.
“We didn’t come out ready, we didn’t come out fired up,” said Gallant. “There might have been a little ‘this is Winslow,’ and that happens. We’re still a young program.”
Hermon, which played its first varsity game in 2011, gradually developed a better defensive handle against Winslow’s ground game, helping the Hawks remain within a touchdown at intermission.
After the break, Hermon’s ground game began to take control despite the early special-teams miscue that led to the Black Raiders’ second score.
Hermon drove 66 yards on its first possession of the half to get on the scoreboard. Back-to-back Trask passes of 20 yards to Mullen and 21 yards to Pomeroy set up Trask’s 3-yard keeper to pull the Hawks within 13-6 with 5:33 left in the period.
Clark answered with a 48-yard kickoff return, but Winslow couldn’t capitalize, reaching the Hermon 27 before turning the ball over on downs.
Hermon scored again two possessions later, this time with Trask starting a 67-yard drive with a 52-yard gain. He concluded it four plays later by scoring from the 4 to cut the deficit to 13-12 with 11:39 left.
Winslow later drove to the Hermon 35 before a fourth-down flea-flicker play failed, giving Hermon the ball with 3:15 to play.
Trask ran for 15 yards behind Mullen’s lead block on the next play, and two plays later Trask cut off another block by Mullen and raced the final 35 yards to the end zone.
“I saw a little gap and I cut and jumped through it,” said Trask. “Then two guys came together and pinched me a little bit but they pinched me perfectly and kept me up.”
Trask added the two-point conversion run to give Hermon a seven-point lead.
Winslow had one final chance but couldn’t get anything going, with a third-down sack of Pomeroy by senior Deakin Dow leading to a fourth-down incompletion with less than a minute left.
“We dug deep,” said Stark. “We dug deep for the seniors, and to play another week.”