BATH — Trailing at halftime for the second time in two weeks, the top-ranked Medomak Valley football team aimed to again rally in the Class C North semifinals on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 6, this time against No. 5 Hermon.

The Hawks led 16-0 after 24 minutes, but the Panthers prowled back with a few scores of their own as the outcome of the high school playoff clash was in doubt deep in the fourth quarter.

Medomak Valley’s Jacob Craig, right, and Hermon’s Bud Coulter. Photo by Mark Haskell

In the end, Hermon quarterback Johnny Kokoska connected with Chase Flanders on a long completion late in the fourth quarter, which allowed the lower-seeded team to run out the clock on the game — and Medomak Valley’s season — in a 16-12 upset victory on the artificial surface at McMann Stadium.

With the win, Hermon (4-3) advances to the regional championship game, where it will face No. 2 Winslow (6-2) on Saturday, Nov. 13. The Black Raiders defeated No. 6 Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield 64-6 in the day’s other semifinal.

For Medomak Valley, which defeated No. 8 Nokomis of Newport 14-7 in the rain-soaked quarterfinals on Saturday, Oct. 30, the season — the best in school history — ended at 7-3.

Medomak Valley players, from left, Kaden Wright, lsaac Simmons, Hayden Staples and Nolan Gahagan. Photo by Mark Haskell

Hermon defeated No. 4 Oceanside in the previous round of the postseason when the Mariners were forced to forfeit due to COVID-19-related circumstances.

On Saturday, Kokoska rushed for a touchdown and tossed a pair of conversions to Flanders, while Gary Glidden also rushed for a score for Hermon.

For Medomak Valley, Hayden Staples and Levi Ward scored on rushing touchdowns and exited late in the game due to injuries.

Medomak Valley’s Jethro Pease (54) and Hayden Staples. Photo by Mark Haskell

Staples rushed for 79 yards and Ward 52, while Aaron Reed (48 yards), Porter Gahagan (14 yards), Wyatt Simmons (4 yards) and Tucker Holgerson (4 yards) also contributed on the ground for the Panthers. Simmons also completed a seven-yard pass to Jacob Craig.

Defensively, Kayden Wright (7 solo tackles, 3 assists), Nolan Gahagan (7 solos, 2 assists), Staples (6 solos, 2 assists, forced fumble). Gatlin Bedenik (6 solos, assist), Isaac Bickford (5 solos, assist), Marshall Addy (3 solos, 2 assists), Holgerson (3 solos, assist), Garret Hutchins (3 solos, fumble recovery), Gabe Lash (3 solos, assist) and Kory Donlin (2 solos) paced the Panther defense.

“I thought Hermon did a great job controlling the pace of the game,” said Medomak Valley coach Ryan Snell. “They pretty much had a perfect first half. Despite all that we were still able to get something going in the second half and had a chance late to get in the end zone again, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

The Hawks got on the board after a long, methodical drive that culminated with a 15-yard touchdown rush to the near pylon by Kokoska — and pass from Kokoska to Flanders moments later — which made the score 8-0 with 3:22 to play in the first quarter.

Medomak Valley countered with a long, methodical drive of its own that spanned well into the second quarter — as the Panthers converted three fourth downs along the way — but stalled after a Wyatt Simmons pass to Craig was complete but just short of the sticks with 5:09 left in the half.

The Panthers — after the Hawks worked their way down the field and found themselves with a first-and-goal from the three-yard line with under two minutes to play — forced a fourth-and-goal with under three seconds to go, but Glidden broke the plane with a dive and scored the short-yardage TD as time expired in the half.

Medomak Valley’s Levi Ward, right, and athletic trainer Lynsey Carr. Photo by Mark Haskell

Kokoska tossed a completion to Flanders with zeroes on the clock to give the Hawks a 16-point cushion.

The higher-seeded squad came out on fire to start the second half and took only 2:47 off the clock before Ward rushed for a 15-yard score. Hermon promptly turned the ball over on the ensuing possession as the ball was recovered by Hutchins and, moments later, Staples rushed for a 20-yard score with 6:39 to go in the stanza.

However, the Hawks held the Panthers out of the end zone on their two-point conversion attempts as the lower seed held a 16-12 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Staples, playing defense, exited the game a few minutes later and did not return, as he reaggravated the wrist injury that kept him out of the team’s quarterfinal playoff win over Nokomis.

Medomak Valley’s Wyatt Simmons (12), among others. Photo by Mark Haskell

Medomak Valley seemingly had held Hermon on its next possession and forced a punt, but a late flag signifying a pass interference penalty with 2:27 to go in the third, allowed the Hawks to extend their drive.

After that Hawk drive stalled, the Panthers had a promising fourth-quarter drive —which was led by a few big gains on the ground by Reed — but turned the ball over on downs with 5:36 to play.

The Hawks then faced a long third down, but Kokorka found Flanders open on the right flat and Flanders evaded the defense to the tune of a 40-yard pickup, which made the upset victory all but academic for Hermon.

“I’m just real proud of the guys effort,” Snell said. “They battled through a lot off the field early in the season and then on the field late in the season. The reality is after week two we weren’t sure we were going to be able to continue our season. But, thankfully we got that chance and we were able to play each week. They’ve set the bar, and now we’ll see where we go with it in the offseason with a lot of guys coming back.”