Albeit a day later then it had anticipated, the fifth-seeded Belfast Area High School football team came up a dollar short in its Eastern Class B semifinal playoff game Saturday against top-seeded Leavitt of Turner.

The Lion defense bent on many occasions, but seldom broke against the Hornets, who had averaged 41 points per game through their first nine games of the season.

However, turnovers and countless penalties worked against the Lions as the top-seeded Hornets showed why they are the defending state Class B champions with a 31-8 victory Saturday afternoon at the Harold and Ted Alfond Athletics Center at Kents Hill School in Readfield.

The game was moved to the turf field in Readfield late Friday morning due to the significant rain that hit the state last week, leaving the Hornets’ home field in unplayable condition.

The Hornets (10-0) will move on to the Eastern Class B championship game, where they will host No. 3 Gardiner (8-2) for the right to advance to the state final, set for Nov. 20. Coincidentally, Gardiner’s only two losses of the season were a 34-28 loss to Belfast Oct. 8 and a 34-13 loss to Leavitt Oct. 22 to end the regular season.

The Tigers defeated No. 2 Hampden Academy 28-25 Friday in the semifinals to earn a spot in the regional final.

Belfast’s season ended 5-5.

“I thought they played extremely well,” said Belfast coach Chris Bartlett of his Lions. “We came out and preached all week that we felt we had a pretty good defensive scheme against them, we just needed to do the small things correctly like handling their options and traps, which, for the most part, I think we did pretty well.”

Bartlett added with the exception of a game earlier this season between Leavitt and Winslow, not many teams have been within striking distance against the Hornets this season at halftime.

The Lion defense was not intimidated by the Hornet attack, forcing five turnovers and recovering four of them in the loss. Leavitt’s defense also forced four turnovers, recovering three. Kornelius Wood and Forrest Boynton each had fumble recoveries for Belfast, with Boynton’s coming on a fumble in the end zone for a touchback in the second half.

However, false starts, delay-of-games and holding penalties hampered the Lions all day, often taking away any momentum they had hoped to conjure up through the contest. Belfast committed eight penalties on the day for 80 yards.

“Leavitt’s pretty big and quick and I think they were a little bit stronger than we were up front,” Bartlett said. “So I think that’s where some of the holding penalties came in. If you’ve got someone who gets by you and they’re a little bit quicker, you have a tendency to get caught holding and we did. But those were big momentum changers.”

Lani Eversage managed just six rushing yards on seven carries for Belfast, but did score the Lions’ lone touchdown on a 49-yard passing strike from quarterback Brad Reed. The tailback had three catches for 66 yards on the day, while counterpart Dylan Webster had 45 yards on 12 carries and three catches for 31 yards.

Reed completed 8-of-22 passes for Belfast for 105 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also completed a two-point conversion pass to teammate Mike McFadden.

Leavitt outgained Belfast 496-271 in all-purpose yards, while outgaining the visitors 395-180 on offense.

Leading the Hornet attack was Jordan Hersom, who rushed for 173 yards on 23 carries and also completed a 40-yard touchdown pass to teammate Lucas Witham. Jake Ouelette added 114 yards on 15 carries and scored on runs of 10 and 51 yards, while Jason Fisher also scored on a 20-yard score late in the second quarter. Max Cloutier also booted a 38-yard field goal late in the game for Leavitt.

After Belfast punted on its first possession, Leavitt began its descent down the field after converting a key third down on a run by Hersom. The Hornets later fumbled the ball on the drive that was pounced on by Wood to give Belfast the ball at the 37-yard line.

The Lions had a third-and-short near midfield, but a delay-of-game penalty moved them back five yards, where Webster’s run up the middle was well short of the marker. Belfast punted the ball back to Leavitt, where the Hornets eventually cashed in on a seven-play drive with a 10-yard-run by Ouelette.

Despite a handful of penalties on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball in the first half for Belfast, the Lions managed to contain Leavitt’s offense for the majority of the half. The Lions came up with a crucial stop later in the first quarter on a fourth-down play deep in their own territory.

Shortly thereafter, the Lion offense committed a holding penalty and after Reed was sacked by the Hornet defense at the six-yard line to end the first quarter, Reed completed a deep pass over the middle to Webster for a 29-yard pickup and was later helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty to give the visitors terrific field position in Leavitt territory.

However, Reed then tossed an interception over the middle into the hands of the Leavitt defense to end Belfast’s most promising drive of the afternoon.

“Watching film [with the team this week] we knew that the middle of the field was going to be open,” coach Bartlett said. “That was one of those situations where you can’t go to the well one too many times because their kids make good adjustments on the fly and they’re going to pick that up.”

Later in the half off a Belfast punt, a fine piece of running by Hersom, where he reversed field and went up the Lion sideline — coupled with a late-hit penalty assessed to Belfast — gave the Hornets terrific field position at the 48-yard line.

The Hornets scored later in the drive on a 20-yard run by Fisher with 3:25 remaining to put the hosts up by two scores.

“That hurt us,” Bartlett said. “That’s a score [Leavitt] should not have had. We really should have gone into halftime either down seven or it being a 7-7 game, but I think that was more frustration [than anything else].”

Ouelette cashed in on a 51-yard run with 11:10 remaining in the third quarter before Hersom connected with Witham on a 40-yard touchdown strike with 9:49 remaining in the game to put the Hornets up 28-0.

Eversage put Belfast on the board minutes later when he scored on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Reed, followed by a two-point conversion catch by McFadden to cut the deficit to 28-8 before Cloutier’s field goal accounted for the game’s final score with 1:02 remaining.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.