OAKLAND, Maine — The Bangor football team blitzed its first three opponents with an offensive barrage good for an average of 45 points per game.
But coach Mark Hackett’s club needed a resilient defense to remain undefeated Friday night to outlast gritty Messalonskee 13-12 in a Class A matchup at Veterans Memorial Field.
“Everyone’s been saying since we started this season that we have a weak defense,” said Bangor senior tackle Andrew Logan, who teamed with classmates Jacob Thompson and Joey Quinn up front to limit Messalonskee’s double-wing rushing attack to 128 yards on 46 carries. “We just had to come out and show tonight that we have a strong defense, and that the front is the heart of the team.”
That defensive might was most in evidence during the second half, when the Rams stalled Messalonskee’s offense at the 5 and then on a subsequent possession for three straight downs from the Bangor 1.
On that first foray deep into Bangor territory, Thompson, Quinn and Logan combined to stuff Messalonskee fullback Desmond Nutter for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-goal from the 6.
Bangor’s offense then struck suddenly — getting a 94-yard touchdown pass from Joe Seccareccia to Josiah Hartley down the right sideline two plays later to break a 6-6 stalemate with 4:17 left in the third quarter.
“I hate it when we throw the ball long because half the time it comes out as something negative and I just want to get the three or four yards we need,” said Hackett. “That’s why I don’t call the offense, and that’s why we need guys like [assistant] coach [Fred] Lower who call those plays and who dare to call those plays.”
Hartley raced straight down the right sideline against defensive pressure from Messalonskee’s Ryan Bender, but Seccareccia threw a perfect throw over the top of the defense and the 6-foot-4 Hartley came down with the ball at the Bangor 40 and just kept running.
“[Bender] was right up on top of me and I just did all I could to get by him,” said Hartley.
Nate Henigan followed with an extra-point kick that was ultimately the margin of victory in the game.
Bangor’s defense then withstood a fierce counterattack by Messalonskee, which drove from its 43 to a first down at the Bangor 5. Nutter gained four yards on the next play, but twice quarterback Dylan Foster was stuffed for no gain before Seccareccia charged in from his safety spot to sack Foster for a 7-yard loss on fourth down.
“It just took a little time to get used to what they were doing, because everything was on the inside,’ said Logan. “We just had to buckle down.”
But Messalonskee wasn’t finished, driving 41 yards to draw within 13-12 on a 6-yard keeper by Foster on fourth-and-5 with 4:55 remaining — the Eagles’ 15th play of the half inside the Bangor 20.
Then coach Wes Littlefield and his staff — who unsuccessfully went for a two-point conversion after Messalonskee’s first touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run by Nutter that capped an 18-play, 85-yard drive with 8:24 left in the first half — decided to kick the extra point this time.
The move didn’t work, as Cody Ziegenfus’s attempt went wide, and Bangor maintained a one-point lead.
“It’s one of those things where you turn to your staff and say ‘what do we want to do?’” said Littlefield. “I personally wanted to go for two, but we said let’s give the kid a chance to kick it. Next time I’m just going to go with my gut instinct and go for the win.”
Bangor finished with a 229-223 edge in total offense, with senior tailback Lonnie Hackett leading the Rams with a hard-earned 102 rushing yards on 27 carries.
“We’re usually able to run the ball a lot more,” said Seccareccia, “but they had three linebackers stacked and we had to use the outside as much as we could.”
Hackett also scored Bangor’s lone first-half touchdown on a 4-yard run with 2:58 left in the second quarter.
That run answered Messalonskee’s first touchdown and completed a 12-play, 73-yard drive.