Week 4 of the high school football season marks the end of the first half for most teams statewide.
Just seven clubs remain undefeated in Eastern Maine, two of which will square off in Oakland when Bangor visits Messalonskee in a key Pine Tree Conference Class A matchup.
Bangor Rams (3-0) vs. Messalonskee Eagles (3-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Veterans Memorial Field, Oakland: While Bangor has controlled play in recent meetings with Messalonskee, winning 39-18 and 54-18 the last two seasons, this has developed into a feisty rivalry in several sports.
“They don’t sneak up on us,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “The first couple of years we played them, they might have because we didn’t know who they were, but they always play us tough, it’s always a very long game.”
Messalonskee is off to its first 3-0 start since 2004 after last weekend’s come-from-behind 18-15 victory over Brunswick, during which coach Wes Littlefield’s club scored on a fourth-and-goal play with 27 seconds remaining to secure the win.
Bangor’s defense will be tested by a double-wing offense for the second time in four weeks, but unlike an inexperienced Skowhegan club in Week 1 the Eagles feature a veteran quarterback in Dylan Foster and a rugged fullback in Desmond Nutter.
Bangor’s offense has been unstoppable through three weeks, averaging 45 points per game in wins over Skowhegan, Mount Ararat of Topsham and Cony of Augusta — teams with a combined 2-7 record.
Brewer Witches (1-2) vs. Skowhegan Indians (0-3), 7 p.m. Friday, Clark Memorial Field, Skowhegan: Times have changed in a year within this battle of the double-wing offenses.
Skowhegan handled Brewer 30-0 last fall en route to its first Eastern Maine Class A title in 20 years and a berth in the state final. This season coach Mike Marston’s Indians are battling inexperience, injuries and a rugged schedule — previous opponents Bangor, Brunswick and Lewiston are a combined 8-1.
Brewer, meanwhile, is coming off its first win of the season, a 38-26 victory at Edward Little of Auburn. Coach Don Farnham’s club, whose losses have come to unbeatens Lawrence of Fairfield and Lewiston, is gaining more and more confidence in the double wing with each passing week, as the Witches have averaged 26.7 points per game.
Gardiner Tigers (2-1) vs. Mount Desert Island Trojans (2-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Bar Harbor: A tradition-laden Gardiner program against a rebuilding MDI team may suggest a mismatch, but the balance within the Pine Tree Conference Class B ranks may suggest otherwise.
Gardiner is coming off a 44-27 victory over Waterville during which it unveiled a new offensive weapon, sophomore running back Alonzo Conner, who rushed for 278 yards on 29 carries as the Tigers built a 27-7 halftime lead over the previously unbeaten Panthers.
Gardiner also boasts one of Eastern Maine’s top all-around athletes in Forrest Chadwick, who rushed for two touchdowns and had two interceptions against Waterville.
Mount Desert Island got running back Derek Colbeth back for last weekend’s 28-20 win over Nokomis of Newport after he sat out a Week 2 loss at Hampden Academy, and he responded with his second 100-yard rushing performance of the season with 155 yards on 16 tries.
Nat Hinckley added 102 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries for an MDI offense that amassed nearly 350 rushing yards, while quarterback Duncan Smith scored on three touchdown runs.
Belfast Lions (0-3) at Hampden Academy Broncos (2-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Weatherbee Complex, Hampden: The red-hot Broncos seek their third straight victory against a rebuilding Belfast squad.
Hampden is coming off an historic 54-0 win at Winslow last Saturday, the Broncos’ first victory over the Black Raiders since 1998 and also what has been described as the most lopsided defeat in the 87-year history of the Winslow football program.
The performance was so dominant that of Hampden’s nine possessions during the game, eight ended in touchdowns and the ninth ended with the Broncos taking a knee at the Winslow 4-yard line with time winding down in the fourth quarter.
Belfast faces a major defensive challenge in trying to slow a diversified Hampden offense that has averaged 50 points in wins over Winslow and Mount Desert Island, but the Lions have displayed an ability to move the football despite their slow start, and will need to display even more ball control to slow the Broncos.
Mattanawcook Academy Lynx (2-1) vs. John Bapst Crusaders (3-0), 7 p.m., Friday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: John Bapst is steadily re-establishing itself as one of the teams to beat in the LTC, as the defending state champions have followed up their one-point survival of Bucksport in the season opener with convincing wins over Calais-Woodland and Rockland.
Senior Billy Wetherbee continues to be the Crusaders’ primary playmaker, with three touchdowns in last week’s 33- 12 win at Rockland, while Shane Hass grows more comfortable each week as the starting quarterback in coach Dan O’Connell’s dynamic offense.
Mattanawcook has settled down since losing to unbeaten Foxcroft Academy in its opener, outscoring Stearns of Millinocket and Orono by a combined 68-6 since then.
Ethan White has emerged as both a passing and rushing threat from the quarterback position since replacing injured starter Josh Pelkey midway through the team’s first game.
Mount View Mustangs (2-1) vs. Maine Central Institute (3-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Wright Field, Pittsfield: Two of the surprise stories in Eastern Maine football square off in an LTC game with Class C playoff implications a month in advance of the start of postseason play.
MCI remained unbeaten with a dramatic 41-40 overtime victory at Dexter last Saturday. The Huskies trailed by 13 points with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before Tyler Maloon caught a touchdown pass and then threw an option pass for another touchdown to force overtime after his team recovered an onside kick.
MCI sat several starters in that game due to injury, including starting quarterback and safety Shawn Bennett, and their return to the lineup will be pivotal to the Huskies’ chances of remaining unbeaten against Mount View.
The Mustangs are coming off their first loss, a 32-19 decision at Calais-Woodland, after the initial two victories in the program’s three-year varsity existence.
But even in defeat Mount View showed offensive strength and balance, with Tyler Rednour rushing for 206 yards and quarterback Aaron Santana passing for two touchdowns to Erick Nealey.