Week 11 of the high school football season gives six Eastern Maine teams the chance to take the penultimate step toward their ultimate goal — a state championship.
Regional finals are scheduled throughout Eastern and Western Maine on Saturday, with survivors set to advance to state championship games on Nov. 22 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
Class A: No. 4 Skowhegan Indians (9-1) vs. No. 2 Edward Little Red Eddies (9-1), 3 p.m., Walton Field, Auburn: This game pits the power running game of Skowhegan against Edward Little’s aerial attack.
Both had first-round playoff scares — Skowhegan edging Brunswick 22-21 and EL outlasting Messalonskee of Oakland by a touchdown — before scoring semifinal wins over local rivals last Saturday.
Skowhegan pulled off the upset of the Pine Tree Conference Class A season, avenging a 35-6 regular-season loss with a 30-22 victory over two-time defending Eastern Maine champion and top-seeded Lawrence of Fairfield. The Indians got a big effort from tailback Billy Clark (275 rushing yards, two touchdowns) as well as 149 passing yards from quarterback Jordan McGowan.
EL defeated No. 3 Lewiston for the second time in three weeks, getting 290 passing yards from Cody Goddard in a 28-7 victory over the Blue Devils.
Clark and Goddard figure to play key roles as Skowhegan and EL meet for the first time this season. Clark enters the game as the conference’s leading ground gainer with 1,926 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns, while Goddard is the league’s leading passer, completing 99 of 185 attempts for 1,960 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Fullback Cody Vigue gives Skowhegan an additional running threat, while Buddy Foss and Dylon Therrien pace the EL ground game, and Dominique Bailey and Shane Ciriello are the Eddies’ top receivers.
EL, which finished 1-7 in 2007, is seeking its first Eastern Maine title since 2002, while Skowhegan is after its first regional crown since 1989.
The winner will play the survivor of the Western A final, which sends two-time defending state champion Bonny Eagle of Standish (8-2) to face No. 2 Thornton Academy (10-0) of Saco.
Class B: No. 5 Morse Shipbuilders (7-2) vs. No. 2 Mount Desert Island Trojans (8-1), 1:30 p.m. at Bar Harbor: MDI lost its season opener, then ripped off eight straight wins to advance to its first championship game since the 1992 LTC small school final, which it lost to Stearns of Millinocket.
Morse dropped its first two games — including a 22-15 home-field loss to MDI in Week 2 — but has won seven straight since then to get within one win of its first title since 1972, the last of five consecutive years the Shipbuilders either won outright or shared the Class B state championship.
MDI capitalized on turnovers in its earlier win over Morse, with defensive back Terrence Jones recording three interceptions — one he returned for a touchdown — and a fumble recovery.
Jones also is one of the catalysts of the Trojans’ offense with 862 rushing yards on 114 carries, along with fellow running backs Odane Gaynor (115-764) and Jasper Cousins (20 regular-season pass receptions, 12 touchdowns) behind quarterback Tyler Crawford (51 of 83 passing, 822 yards).
The Trojans also get a boost on special teams from Nolan Hall, who averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return during the regular season and had a 78-yard return for what turned out to be the winning touchdown in the Trojans’ 28-21 semifinal victory over No. 3 Gardiner.
Morse has relied on a stout defense late in the season, in fact the Shipbuilders have not allowed a point in their last 18 quarters, which span postseason wins at No. 4 Winslow and No. 1 Leavitt of Turner Center and regular-season victories over Gardiner and Oak Hill of Sabattus.
Coach Jason Libby’s club features a big line that fuels a powerful running game that has thrived during the playoffs despite the loss of leading rusher Pat Wolfe (138 carries, 987 yards) to an ankle injury.
In his place, Alex Kee has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the Shipbuilders’ two playoff wins, while converted tight end J Cavanagh has provided tough inside running behind quarterback Michael Walton.
The Morse-MDI winner will play for the state title against either top-seeded Mountain Valley of Rumford (10-0) or No. 2 Cape Elizabeth (9-1), who meet in the Western B final.
Class C: No. 2 John Bapst Crusaders (9-1) vs. No. 1 Bucksport Golden Bucks (10-0), 1 p.m., Carmichael Field, Bucksport: This marks the only Eastern Maine final in which the regular-season seedings have held.
Coach Joel Sankey’s Bucksport club has emerged unscathed to this point, its most serious challenge coming when John Bapst took the Golden Bucks to overtime in their season opener before Bucksport emerged with a 40-39 victory.
John Bapst hasn’t lost since that season opener either in earning its second straight trip to the regional final.
Bucksport features perhaps the state’s leading rusher in senior tailback Nate Warren, who has 2.230 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season — including 322 yards and three touchdowns in the earlier meeting against John Bapst, not to mention an 89-yard TD run that was negated by a penalty behind the play.
Alex Giosia, fullback Andrew Findlay and quarterback Kyle McGeechan add to the Golden Bucks’ ground game, while linebacker Robbie Winters and tackle Robbie McGuire anchor the defense, along with ends Vince Tymoczko and Isaac Redman and defensive back Cam Wentworth, who had seven interceptions during the regular season.
John Bapst counters with a wide-open offense directed by senior quarterback Derek Smith, who has completed 116 of 189 attempts for 1,829 yards. Smith relies on several receivers, a group led by tailback Bill Wetherbee, who not only has more than 500 yards in receptions but has 1,044 rushing yards to lead the Crusaders in both categories.
Wideouts Shane Hass and Chris Fogler add speed on the outside, while fullback Chase Huckestein is another capable receiver who also provides much of the inside running for coach Dan O’Connell’s club.
Bucksport is seeking its first EM title since its state championship run in 2004, while John Bapst is seeking its first crown since winning the 1976 LTC title.
The Bucksport-John Bapst winner will meet the survivor of the Western C final between unbeaten and top-ranked Winthrop (10-0) and third-ranked Lisbon (8-2).