Our three weeks of summer have passed by much too quickly, replaced by the crispness of autumn air and the start of a new high school football season.
Skowhegan, Morse of Bath and John Bapst of Bangor are reigning Eastern Maine champs in Classes A, B and C, with John Bapst winning its first state title since 1976.
All three figure to be in the mix to defend their Eastern Maine titles in 2009, but there will be plenty of challengers.
Class A: Skowhegan upset undefeated Lawrence of Fairfield en route to the state final, and while the Indians suffered heavy graduation losses, the Indians’ success with the double-wing offense makes playing coach Mike Marston’s club a challenging task any year. Lawrence, 37-4 over the last four seasons, is after its fourth EM title in five years. The Bulldogs return one of the Eastern A’s top backs in senior Christian Powers.
Brunswick and Lewiston should contend from the southern wing of the Pine Tree Conference Class A ranks, but the pick here to advance to Championship Saturday on Nov. 21 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland is Bangor.
Coach Mark Hackett’s youthful Rams endured a 3-6 campaign last fall against the division’s toughest schedule, but nearly the entire squad returns, led by junior quarterback Joe Seccareccia and senior tailback Lonnie Hackett, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2008.
Class B: The PTC Class B has produced some of the deepest postseason fields statewide in recent years. This fall should be no exception.
Defending champion Morse is considered a favorite to repeat thanks to a returning cast featuring running back Pat Wolfe.
Hampden Academy was a field goal miss off the upright from reaching the semifinals last fall, and coach Harry McCluskey’s club will rely on a big senior class in its effort to challenge for a championship.
Gardiner and Waterville also will rank among the upper echelon, but expect Leavitt of Turner to emerge as the Eastern B champ.
Leavitt returns 15 starters from a team that lost just twice last fall, to Morse during the regular season and to those same Shipbuilders 7-0 on a late touchdown in their regional semifinal.
Eric Theiss is a veteran quarterback for the Hornets, while Josh Strickland is an imposing tailback and a trio of third-year starters return on the line of scrimmage.
Class C: Foxcroft Academy has been the LTC’s dominant team for most of the decade until being ousted in last fall’s quarterfinals. Danny White replaces longtime head coach Paul Withee, but the tradition remains strong as the Ponies seek to march deep into postseason play.
Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Stearns of Millinocket and Rockland also could be among the postseason players, but the battle for the top seed likely will come down to last year’s finalists, John Bapst and Bucksport — with Bapst emerging as the LTC champion for a second straight year.
Bucksport graduated prolific rusher Nate Warren, but the Golden Bucks return a blend of speed and power plus a healthy dose of motivation after having their undefeated 2008 season ended in a home-field loss to John Bapst in the LTC final.
Bapst’s graduates included LTC player of the year Derek Smith and Lobster Bowl MVP Chase Huckestein.
But converted wideout Shane Hass has moved to quarterback for the Crusaders, and talented running back Bill Wetherbee returns behind an experienced line.