Week 9 of the high school football season is Week 1 of the postseason, with quarterfinal matchups throughout Eastern Maine.
No. 8 Mt. Blue Cougars (3-5) at No. 1 Bangor Rams (8-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Cameron Stadium: Mt. Blue actually led at intermission of the regular-season meeting in Farmington before Bangor erupted for a 44-26 victory thanks in part to four second-half touchdowns by Eastern A rushing leader Lonnie Hackett.
Bangor has featured offensive balance between the run and pass in recent weeks, and Rams’ coach Mark Hackett expects his team’s defense to face a similarly balanced attack in Mt. Blue, which earned its playoff berth with an 8-0 win over Skowhegan last weekend.
“They’re getting better,” said Hackett. “They throw the ball better than anyone in the league. They throw it at least as well as we do.
“We don’t see a lot of teams that throw like that so it’s tough on our kids, and they also run the ball well. They’re about 50-50, so you go in and coach like crazy to stop the pass and then you’re shocked that they’re running on you.”
Bangor lost at Lewiston in the EM quarterfinals last fall, and now a more experienced cast of Rams hopes to advance much further this season.
“These guys have been looking all year to get back and prove something,” said Hackett. “These kids love to play in the playoffs, they love the big game and they’re excited about this chance.
“But Mt. Blue’s very improved. We think we are, too, but that might be one of the best eighth-place teams I’ve ever seen.”
No. 5 Waterville Purple Panthers (5-3) at No. 4 Hampden Academy Broncos (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Weatherbee Complex: This Class B matchup figures to be one of the more intriguing quarterfinals.
These teams were tied at 14-14 in the third quarter two weeks ago until Hampden’s Nolan Turner returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown to set off a run of 25 unanswered points by the Broncos.
Hampden features the division’s top passer in Jon Haws (60-for-98, 1,159 yards, 13 TDs, 1 INT) and several other playmakers in Turner (21 catches, 538 yards, 11 TDs), Nick Stevens (26 carries, 496 yards), Ryan Blake (52-414) and Michael Jenkins (46-307, 12 TDs).
Waterville features the rushing tandem of Kris Huggins (770 rushing yards, 14 TDs) and Josh Gaudette (518 rushing yards).
No. 7 Mount Desert Island Trojans (3-5) at No. 2 Morse Shipbuilders (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday, McMann Field, Bath: Morse edged MDI 10-7 in last year’s Eastern B final but rolled over the Trojans 38-0 last week.
Morse features the division’s leading rusher in Pat Wolfe (128 carries, 1,112 yards, 16 TDs) and a physical offensive front.
MDI has its own solid ground game in Nat Hinckley (788 rushing yards), Derek Colbeth (507 yards) and Elias Burne (345 yards), along with sophomore quarterback Duncan Smith (307 passing yards, 294 rushing yards).
No. 8 Belfast Lions (2-6) at No. 1 Leavitt Hornets (8-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Turner Center: Belfast, led by Derrick Bernosky (100 carries, 478 yards) and Phil McFadden (86-446), clinched the final Class B playoff berth by edging Camden Hills of Rockport 12-8 last weekend.
Undefeated Leavitt boasts the PTC’s second-leading ground gainer in Josh Strickland (106 carries, 803 yards) and versatile quarterback Eric Theiss (1,013 passing yards, 706 rushing yards).
No 8 Calais-Woodland Silverados (3-5) at No. 1 Foxcroft Academy Ponies (8-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Oakes Field: Calais-Woodland is back in the playoffs for the second time in as many varsity seasons, thanks to an effective double-wing offense featuring 1,000-yard rusher Kevin Ross, Ryan Cavanaugh and Spencer McCor-mick.
Foxcroft Academy counters with an aggressive defense that has taken the measure of each of its first eight opponents, including defending state champion John Bapst of Bangor in a 46-15 win last Friday.
Foxcroft’s offense includes balance and plenty of playmakers in QB Ryan Stroud, running backs Ian Champeon and Chase Hutchinson and receivers Josiah Richard and Robbie Harmon.
Dexter Tigers (4-4) at John Bapst Crusaders (7-1), 2 p.m. Saturday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: Dexter returns to postseason play for the first time in 14 years against a defending state champion John Bapst club looking to get back on track after having its 18-game winning streak snapped last weekend at Foxcroft.
Both teams feature power running games. John Bapst has the LTC’s leading rusher in senior tailback Billy Wetherbee, while Dexter counters with the division’s second-leading ground gainer in Doug Richardson who, like Wetherbee, is a member of the 1,000-yard club.
Bucksport Golden Bucks (4-4) at Mattanawcook Academy Lynx (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Curry Field, Lincoln: Mattanawcook hopes to repeat its 26-7 win at Bucksport two weeks ago.
The Lynx are led by quarterback Ethan White, who scored three touchdowns in the earlier meeting and totaled 206 rushing and passing yards in last week’s 42-6 win over Rockland.
Bucksport boasts the reigning LTC Class C player of the week in senior Vince Tymoczko, who rushed for 184 yards and four touchdowns on just seven carries in a season-ending win at Orono.
No. 5 Maine Central Institute Huskies (5-3) at No. 4 Stearns Minutemen (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Alumni Field, Millinocket: These teams are meeting for the second straight weekend at Millinocket, after Stearns pulled away in the second half for a 28-13 victory last Friday that earned coach Chris Preble’s club home-field ad-vantage in the rematch.
Quarterback Jared McGreevey and tailback Billy Eurich combined for 342 rushing yards against the Huskies, while MCI quarterback Shawn Bennett passed for 181 yards and rushed for 73 yards in the first encounter.