Nov. 18—LEWISTON — Unreal. Incredible. Unforgettable.
Pick your superlative. They all apply.
A remarkable rally and gutsy gamble allowed the Wells High football team to deliver one of the most stunning state championship victories in years, as the Warriors escaped a 21-point hole to defeat two-time defending champion Foxcroft Academy, 22-21, in the Class D final Saturday at Lewiston High's Don Roux Field.
It's the first state championship for Wells since 2018, and the sixth overall. None presented the drama this did.
"We've got 48 guys in the room that believe in us, we've got these people in the stands that believe in us. Everyone (else) betted against us," senior running back Conner Whitten said. "Nobody thought we could do it. But we believed in us."
The turnover-plagued Warriors (8-3) trailed the Ponies 21-0 at halftime but fought back in the second half. A 3-yard pass from Brooks Fox to Whitten with 19 seconds to play cut Foxcroft's lead to 21-20. The Warriors passed up a tying extra point and were rewarded when Fox found Whitten again for a 2-point conversion that gave Wells its only lead of the game — and the only one it needed.
"We did not come here to lose," Fox said. "We could be down 40, we're thinking in our heads 'We need to find a way to win this game.' ... Everyone had that mindset. We could win this game."
After four Wells turnovers help Foxcroft build its 21-0 lead, the hole seemed too deep. The Wells players, however, knew they weren't out of it yet.
"We're thinking, 'We're losing to ourselves right now,'" Fox said. "We needed to turn it around."
The comeback started with a 49-yard pass from Fox to Riley Murphy (four catches, 142 yards) that set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Whitten (23 carries, 140 yards). A Cody Haynes interception — one play after a penalty negated a Ponies touchdown — ended a Foxcroft (10-1) drive into Wells territory, and after a 38-yard pass to Murphy, the Warriors closed to within 21-14 on a 1-yard run by Eli Potter (20 carries, 75 yards) with 7:41 to play.
Looking for a clinching score, Foxcroft instead committed another miscue with a fumble in the red zone, and the Warriors drove from their 17 toward the tying score. On fourth-and-3, Fox found Whitten at the goal line to make it 21-20 with 19 seconds left.
With the season on the line, it was decision time.
"I said to the kids, 'It's your game. What do you want to do?'" Wells Coach Tim Roche said.
There was no hesitation from the Wells players.
"I walked right up to my coach after we scored that touchdown, and I said 'Coach, let's go win this (expletive) right now," Whitten said. "Screw this. We're not going for the tie. We came here to win."
Wells called the same play. This time, Whitten continued his route into the back corner, and Fox found him, setting off a wild sideline celebration.
After a last-gasp Foxcroft possession, that celebration continued onto the field.
"We'd been waiting for a break all night," Fox said. "We finally got our break in a fumble at the end of the game; that's what we needed, and we capitalized on it."
In the first half, the Warriors paid the price for their turnovers — including two interceptions off the hands of Wells players. Foxcroft turned those miscues into a 41-yard touchdown pass from Wyatt Rayfield to Silas Topolski, a 28-yard scoring pass from Rayfield to Gage Beaudry, and a 30-yard TD run by Beaudry (15 carries, 125 yards).
At halftime, the Warriors were baffled.
"I didn't think we had a break," Roche said, who credited former assistant coach Mike Guyer, who died in February, with instilling the resilience that paid off Saturday. "We were just saying we could do this, if we could figure this out."
Wells fumbled on its first second-half drive but was clean afterward, while it became Foxcroft's turn to make big mistakes, even after Ponies Coach Danny White stressed that the game wasn't over.
"The message was clear at halftime, it was zero-zero," he said. "They made some key plays down the stretch and in the fourth quarter. We had a couple of miscues and they took advantage of it. They certainly earned every bit of it."