OAKLAND, Maine — Though most football followers assume that Bangor High School simply reloads after enduring significant graduation losses, there was an air of mystery about how this newest generation of Rams would fare in their 2008 season debut Friday night.
Just three starters were back from last year’s team and just three seniors started on offense, providing Bangor coach Mark Hackett perhaps the least experienced team of his eight-year tenure.
Opening night for these rookie Rams ultimately proved to be a success with one of the veterans leading the way, as Adam Billings rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns as Bangor held off stubborn Messalonskee 34-19 at Veterans Field.
Billings, one of those three senior starters, scored on runs of 53, 4 and 2 yards to help the Rams pull away to a 28-7 third-quarter lead.
Junior Lonnie Hackett rushed for 81 yards and added two touchdowns on runs of 28 and 19 yards — his second score coming on the game’s final play.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Seccareccia debuted by completing 5 of 10 passes for 127 yards and directing an offense that had no turnovers.
“It took a couple of offensive series, I think, to start getting our rhythm and start getting the ball moving and the throwing game going,” said Seccareccia. “But after that it went pretty well.”
Bangor finished with 340 yards of total offense, including 213 on the ground as the Rams nearly matched Messalonskee’s potent double-wing rushing attack.
Messalaonskee gained 232 yards on 52 carries, with fullback Desmond Nutter leading the way with 79 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. But after Nutter gained 76 yards in the first half, Bangor’s defense was able to make an adjustment and limited the 5-10, 230-pound junior to just 3 yards on three carries after intermission.
“Early in the game we realized that we were too low and couldn’t control the line,” said Bangor junior tackle Tom Augustine. “We fired out a little higher and we ended up succeeding and winning the game.”
Messalonskee also didn’t have the complementary passing attack it needed to stay with the Rams. The Eagles completed just one pass, a 28-yard touchdown strike from wingback Matt Stuart to tight end Chris Pelletier that rallied Messalonskee within 28-19 with 3:25 left in the game.
But Bangor linebacker Steven Seccareccia kept Stuart out of the end zone on a subsequent two-point conversion attempt that would have made it a one-possession game, and Bangor ran out the clock after Josiah Hartley recovered the ensuing onside kick.
“I think the kids came through it pretty well,” said coach Hackett. “It wasn’t perfect — it shouldn’t be in the first game — but I was proud of them. I was on them real hard because I know where they have to get, but they weathered the storm pretty well.”
Billings opened the scoring on Bangor’s second possession, racing wide right and finding open space down the sideline to score from 53 yards out. Kyle Lawson added the first of his four successful extra-point kicks to give the Rams a 7-0 lead with 4:24 left in the opening quarter.
“We had great blocking on the end and I didn’t see anything on the inside so I bounced it out and it was wide open,” said Billings.
Messalonskee countered with a 14-play, 73-yard drive to tie the game when Nutter powered over from the 2 with 9:57 left in the first half.
But the young Bangor offense displayed veteran poise late in the period, taking the ball at its 20 with 3:01 left and marching 80 yards in seven plays to take a 14-7 lead.
A 51-yard pass from Seccareccia to Tyler Pembroke set up the score, a 2-yard run by Billings with 18 seconds left.
“I faked to Adam and set up and saw Pembroke running past the cornerback and just launched it over him,” said Seccareccia.
Bangor added two touchdowns within a 1-minute, 53-second span of the third quarter to break the game open.
Billings scored his third touchdown of the night from 2 yards out, after Seccareccia found him in the right flat for a 46-yard pass play and then hit fullback Brian Higgins for a 13-yard gain.
A fumble recovery by Darren Casey-Covell at the Messalonskee 35 set up the Rams’ next score, a 28-yard run by Lonnie Hackett with 3:03 left in the third period.
Messalonskee drove 61 yards on its next possession, with quarterback Dylan Foster scoring on a 3-yard keeper to pull the Eagles within 28-13 with 9:40 left in the game.