BANGOR, Maine — The John Bapst Crusaders were known more for their explosive offense during the first four weeks of the LTC football season.
But defense came to the forefront in Week 5, as John Bapst took a shutout into the final half-minute of play before setting for a 33-7 Class C victory over Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield at Cameron Stadium on Saturday night.
The win was the fourth straight for the Crusaders, unbeaten since dropping a one-point overtime decision to undefeated Bucksport in their season opener.
MCI falls to 3-2.
John Bapst, which averaged 29 points per game through the first four weeks of play, was led offensively by senior running back Bill Wetherbee, who rushed 16 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback Chase Huckestein also scored twice, and the Crusaders were able to withstand 11 penalties and three lost fumbles to put the Huskies away.
That’s because the Crusaders’ defense never let MCI get untracked. The Huskies had four turnovers in the first half, and just 70 total yards through three quarters as John Bapst built a 27-0 lead.
Nick Miller, one of the LTC’s leading rushers entering the game, managed 63 yards on 15 carries — but 35 of those yards came all at once on a touchdown run with 18.7 seconds left in the game.
Taylor Dube and Chris Desmond anchored the Bapst defensive front along with senior captain Tyler Chamberlain, who played for the first time since tearing both the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his knee early in the Bucksport game a month ago.
Chamberlain had his ACL removed during subsequent surgery, but he made his presence known almost immediately upon his return to the lineup with a fumble recovery on MCI’s second play from scrimmage.
“He’s got a thousand-dollar brace that acts as his ACL,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “The fact that kid’s out here and played the way he did is just a testament to his will and a testament to how much he cares. He played well tonight.”
Chris Fogler added two pass interceptions for John Bapst, which limited the run-oriented MCI attack to 17 passing yards.
“It was a Jekyll-and-Hyde night for us,” said O’Connell. “Defensively we improved. We knew they were going to pound the rock and try to make plays with Miller and their quarterback, and the defense played their responsibilities and I thought played pretty tough.
“But offensively we just didn’t seem to be in sync.”
Huckestein scored on a 2-yard run with 41.3 seconds left in the first quarter to give Bapst a 7-0 lead, and Wetherbee exploded for a 51-yard scoring run on the Crusaders’ next possession to make it 13-0.