Football: Cony uses a strong run game, defense to hand Windham its first loss

AUGUSTA — One runs over defenders, the other runs around them. Together, they were an unstoppable force for Cony’s football team Friday night.

Caden Schleis-Hooyman ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns and Eli Klaiber added 65 rushing yards and a pick-six touchdown on defense to lead the Rams to a 34-10 homecoming win over previously undefeated Windham in a Class B North matchup at Fuller Field .

Cony, which bounced back from a 28-0 loss to Skowhegan last week, improved to 2-2; Windham dropped to 3-1.

Schleis-Hooyman barreled through the Eagles’ defense all night when he wasn’t bouncing off defenders like a bumper car or adding the occasional quickstep to freeze them. Klaiber, meanwhile, took pitchouts from quarterbacks Dom Napolitano and David Flynn and glided down the sidelines to help keep the chains moving. Napolitano added 75 yards rushing on 15 carries, including a pair of fourth-down gains in the fourth quarter to help Cony milk the clock.

“They’re two seniors who are really physical players,” Cony coach BL Lippert said of his running backs. “They ran behind their pads pretty well tonight. They’re good in the run game, they’re good in the pass game. It’s nice to have two seniors that can run the ball effectively. We did a nice job to open up some holes for them, and Dom, our quarterback, ran hard, too. That little changeup of his and his athleticism helps us.”

And they’re not too shabby on defense, either. On Windham’s opening drive of the game, the Eagles elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Rams’ 33 yard-line. But pesky running back Haddon Boyle (90 yards on 23 carries) was stopped in the open field by linebacker Schleis-Hooyman.

Late in the second quarter and down 13-7, Windham stared at its own 20 after a long runback by Erik Bowen was called back for a holding penalty. Quarterback Landon Buzulchuk’s pass, intended for wide receiver Alex Yeaton, was snatched by linebacker Klaiber, who dashed 30 yards downfield for the score.

“To hold a really good team to 10 points is really freaking good,” Klaiber said. “I didn’t think I was going to return that back. I dropped back, I saw the ball coming and I saw (Yeaton) coming around the middle, picked it, outran him, then saw (defensive back Marcus Tillery) around the 5-yard line said said, ‘I have to get in. ‘ I think that set the tone for all of us.”

Windham, which dominated Cony 36-7 last season on its way to the Class B state final, has been banged up despite the strong start. Buzulchuk was 5-for-8 for 105 yards and a 50-yard touchdown strike to Max Arbour (eight catches, 99 yards) that knotted the game at 7-all with 9:50 left in the second quarter. Defensively, Arbour and Yeaton each had an interception in the Cony end zone to prevent the score from being even more lopsided.

“We’ve had some injuries the last two weeks, and they kind of caught up to us, and we’ve got some guys who are learning on the job,” said Windham coach Matt Perkins, whose team greets 3-1 Falmouth next weekend. “That’s kind of where we’re at. We’re at a pretty good place at 3-1. We’re going to have to right the ship and fix things in a hurry.”

Schleis-Hooyman opened the scoring in the first with a 1-yard TD run to cap a 9-play drive, in which he accounted for 44 of 65 yards, to give Cony a 7-0 lead after the first of Kameron Douin’s four extra points. After Arbour’s game-tying TD, Flynn’s 5-yard keeper with 2:09 left in the half returned to lead Cony at 14-7, and Klaiber’s interception seconds later made it 20-7. A field goal by Windham’s Jordan Bridge with no time left cut the deficit to 20-10 at halftime.

Schleis-Hooyman’s 13-yard TD run up the middle on Cony’s opening drive of the third boosted the Rams’ lead to 27-10. On Cony’s final drive in the fourth, Schleis-Hooyman added the exclamation point when he carried the ball four times for 28 yards, capped with a 3-yard TD run with 1:56 left in the game.

“Caden’s an animal,” Klaiber said. “He just runs downhill and it doesn’t matter who’s in front of him. Every time there was an outside run, I looked at him and said, ‘I got you to block for me,’ and he said, ‘I’ve got you.'”

Cony lineman Jaden Geyer made several key tackles on defense, mostly against Windham’s Boyle, who took most of his carries via direct snap.

The Rams host Brewer (1-3) next Friday.

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