Week 9 of the high school football season marks the start of postseason play throughout Eastern Maine, with regional quarterfinals scheduled in Classes A, B and C.
Many of those contests will feature familiar opponents, as eight of the 12 playoff games in the region involve regular-season rematches.
No. 6 Bangor Rams (3-5) at No. 3 Lewiston Blue Devils (7-1), 6 p.m. Saturday, Don Roux Field: Lewiston ended several years of frustration with a 43-20 victory over the Rams in Week 6 of the Class A schedule, as senior tailback Wes Myers rushed for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
“He plays with tenacity, and I think he’s the best player in the league, at least he was the night we played them,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett of Myers, “and he might be the best defensive player in the league.
“If we don’t contain him, it won’t be much of a game as we found out the first time we played them.”
Bangor boasts its own 1,000-yard runner in junior tailback Lonnie Hackett, but the Rams will need complementary play from the likes of fullback Adam Billings, quarterback Joe Seccareccia, tight end Josiah Hartley and wideouts Tyler Pembroke and Nate Henigan if they are to survive another shootout against Lewiston.
And despite an uncharacteristic sub-.500 regular season, the Rams are buoyed by the prospect that postseason play represents a second chance of sorts.
“We’ve never acted any differently even when we lost,” said Hackett, whose club is the only team to defeat No. 2 Edward Little of Auburn — which handed Lewiston its first loss last weekend. We think we belong with these teams, but we have to play well and we have to be consistent.”
No. 7 Waterville Purple Panthers (3-4) at No. 2 Mount Desert Island Trojans (6-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Bar Harbor: MDI earned a decisive 35-14 victory when these teams met in Week 3 of the Class B regular season, as Terrence Jones rushed 11 times for 121 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Coach Mark Shields’ Trojans are coming off one of the best regular seasons in school history, led by a strong group of impact players that include Jones (673 rushing yards), Odane Gaynor (574 rushing yards), quarterback Tyler Crawford (47 of 74 passing, 790 yards) and Jasper Cousins (20 receptions, 288 yards on offense, 110 tackles and four interceptions on defense).
Waterville, coming off a loss to rival Winslow last week, features the PTC Class B’s leading passer in Kyle Bishop (74 of 123, 1,115 yards).
No. 6 Hampden Academy Broncos (4-3) at No. 3 Gardiner Tigers (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Hoch Field: These teams also met in Week 4 of the Class B regular season, with Forrest Chadwick’s 67-yard touchdown run in the first quarter the difference in Gardiner’s 7-0 win. Hampden also had one chance to score, but the Tigers’ Pete Caradonna stopped Nolan Turner a half-yard short on a fourth-and-goal play in the third quarter.
Turner finished the regular season with 508 rushing yards and 375 receiving yards to lead Hampden in those categories, while senior quarterback Shawn Smith has completed 54 of 106 passes for 712 yards.
Gardiner, coming off back-to-back losses to Morse of Bath and Leavitt of Turner Center, is led offensively by Chadwick (712 rushing yards, 314 receiving yards).
“I think they’ve gotten better and we’ve gotten better; hopefully it will be a heck of a game,” said Hampden coach Harry McCluskey. “We’ve just got to come out and eliminate mistakes and turnovers.”
No. 8 Maine Central Institute Huskies (4-4) at No. 1 Bucksport Golden Bucks (8-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Carmichael Field: The Golden Bucks defeated MCI 33-18 in Week 2 of the LTC season, pulling away after the Huskies scored 18 second-quarter points to hang within 21-18 at intermission.
MCI will be faced with the task of trying to contain a powerful Bucksport ground game that features the LTC’s leading rusher in tailback Nate Warren as well as two other threats in Alex Giosia and Andrew Findlay.
No. 7 Stearns Minutemen (5-3) at No. 2 John Bapst Crusaders (7-1), 7 p.m. Saturday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: John Bapst brings a seven-game winning streak into this quarterfinal against an opponent it did not face during the regular season. A balanced offense featuring quarterback Derek Smith and tailback Bill Wetherbee enabled the Crusaders to average 38 points per game.
Stearns capped off its first winning regular season since 2003 by rallying from a 21-0 deficit to upend MCI 45-21 last weekend. The Minutemen were led by reigning LTC player of the week Jared McGreevey, a sophomore quarterback who passed for 242 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 96 yards and a score.
No. 6 Orono Red Riots (4-4) at No. 3 Foxcroft Academy Ponies (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday, Oakes Field: Foxcroft rolled to a 47-20 Week 4 victory over the Red Riots in a game that featured 793 yards of total offense.
The three-time defending LTC champion Ponies are led offensively by junior running back Ian Champeon, who scored five touchdowns in the earlier meeting against Orono and finished the regular season with 829 rushing yards. Quarterback Ryan Stroud, who stepped into the starting lineup midway through the season, has 12 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
Orono will need to use its own rushing attack led by Blaine Silk to control the clock and keep the ball away from Foxcroft’s potent offense.
No. 5 Mattanawcook Academy Lynx (4-4) at No. 4 Calais-Woodland Silverados (5-3), 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Calais: The Silverados won five of their last six games to surge to one of the best finishes ever by a first-year varsity program, not only posting a winning record but earning a home playoff game. Mattanawcook, meanwhile, limps into the playoffs having lost its last two regular-season games to Bucksport and Rockland by a combined 71-0.
The Lynx will be tasked with trying to slow a physical Calais-Woodland double-wing offense that has generated nearly 300 rushing yards per game, led by fullback Blake Ford (1,368 rushing yards, 14 TDs) and wingback Cam Shorey (523 rushing yards). Mattanawcook is led by a two-time 1,000-yard rusher in senior Brady Vose.
These teams did not meet during the regular season.