ELLSWORTH — A losing streak that stretched back all the way to 2019 was finally snapped on Oct. 7, when the Ellsworth High School football team held on to beat Lake Region 28-26 in front of a joyous home crowd.
“It was a critical win to be at home and win, to be in front of their peers,” said head coach Dave Svec. “I really loved how there was a core of the soccer team that was up [in the stands] and were vocal, into it, genuinely happy. They rushed the field, we had to push them off. That part of tradition, where the community is starting to come into it a bit more, it’s absolutely important.”
While the celebration at the end of the game was certainly sweet, it was by no means an easy path to victory for the Eagles. Lake Region opened the game with a 14-play scoring drive to take the early lead, prompting flashbacks to the previous week’s matchup against MDI, which opened up an early lead on Ellsworth and never looked back.
But the team responded, with freshman Ripley Strout taking a sweep to the left 75 yards to the house on the first play from scrimmage to tie the game. For Svec, the way the team responded when put in difficult situations was the biggest positive of the night.
“We always talk about football being a sport of adversity, how you respond to adversity,” Svec said. “We responded about 12 times in a positive manner throughout the game. It was really heartening to see.”
Perhaps the standout player on the night for the Eagles was Mason Downing, who made plays on both sides of the ball in critical moments of the game. At the end of the first half, Downing chased down a hook and ladder play from the opposite side of the field that Svec believed was destined for a touchdown if not for Downing. He had nine solo tackles in the game, including a huge goal-line stop on fourth down in the fourth quarter. He also had two interceptions, one in the end zone and one to seal the victory on a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter. On offense, Downing had three receptions for 15 yards that included one critical fourth down conversion.
Downing, one of only four seniors on the young team, shook off an illness that had kept him out of practice all week to make sure he was on the field for senior night in front of the home crowd.
“There’s only one senior night, so I can’t miss it,” said Downing, reflecting on his mindset heading into the game. “I’ve got the rest of my life to sit home and be sick and do nothing but can’t really miss senior night … I showed up and played my hardest and it worked out … It’s really nice to get a win in my last ranges [at home] … It was nice to see everyone come out and support us.”
Some other standout performances in the game included junior Jo James-Chin, who had both a 48-yard rushing touchdown and a 27-yard receiving touchdown along with a two-point conversion. Freshman Copelin Temple had a critical 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Reece Carter had eight solo tackles in the game, and quarterback Thomas Jude punched in a two-point conversion as well.
“A lot of that is the kids buying into what we do, what they need to do,” said Svec, reflecting on the difference in the team during this game. “It’s them trusting that, trusting each other and just sharpening the scheme. Really, it’s kids just stepping up and making plays.”
The Eagles are on the road next, taking on an undefeated Yarmouth team on Friday, Oct. 14. They’ll end the season with another road game against Gray/New Gloucester on Oct. 21. The team is hoping to capitalize on this momentum and get at least one more win before the end of the season.
“We’re just trying to work hard and finish up the season,” said Downing as he considered his final two games in an Ellsworth uniform. “It was nice to get that win and boost our morale a lot. I think we’ll be going into these next two games with a better attitude and a lot of motivation.”