Bangor meets Messalonskee tonight

Posted Nov. 05, 2009, at 11:02 p.m.

Week 10 of the high school football season finds just four teams remaining in each of the state’s six divisions, all competing this Friday and Saturday for berths in regional title games.

And just two weeks away? Championship Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

Messalonskee Eagles (6-3) at Bangor Rams (9-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Cameron Stadium: This Eastern Maine Class A semifinal matches the top-ranked Rams against the team that came closest to beating them during the regular season.

Bangor edged Messalonskee 13-12 during Week 4 play, and while the Eagles feature the double-wing offense, Rams coach Mark Hackett expects his team to have to defend against both the run and the pass in the rematch.

“They have more diversity with their offense now,” said Hackett. “They flex the tight end and they throw the ball pretty well.”

Bangor’s offense similarly is more diverse than when the Rams first met Messalonskee. Senior tailback Lonnie Hackett remains one of the state’s top rushers with 1,740 yards and 21 touchdowns on 221 carries, but Bangor’s passing game has become steadily more successful as the season has progressed.

Junior quarterback Joe Seccareccia has completed 65 of 121 passes for 1,028 yards, while Nate Henigan (30 catches, 350 yards) and Josiah Hartley (21-439) have emerged as one of Class A’s most formidable receiving tandems.

Messalonskee is led offensively by fullback Desmond Nutter (90 carries, 560 yards) and tailback Brian Boyce, along with quarterback Dylan Foster (548 passing yards) and Ryan Bender (24 pass receptions, 298 yards, 5 TDs).

Messalonskee is coming off its first playoff victory since moving up to Class A in 2001, a 14-6 quarterfinal win over No. 5 Lewiston.

The Bangor-Messalonskee victor plays the winner of Friday’s other semifinal between No. 2 Lawrence of Fairfield and No. 3 Brunswick for the Eastern Maine title next weekend.

Hampden Academy Broncos (7-2) at Leavitt Hornets (9-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Turner Center: More than two months have passed since these teams last met in a regular-season opener that served as a springboard to an undefeated season for top-ranked Leavitt.

Hampden had control of the earlier meeting, leading 22-7 in the third quarter before Leavitt rallied to force overtime with a game-tying safety in the final minutes and then pulled out a 29-22 victory.

Leavitt hasn’t been tested since then and boasts the highest-scoring offense statewide regardless of class with 456 points in nine games. But the closeness of their first meeting leaves Hampden confident of its ability to compete with the Hornets in the rematch.

“Our players believe they can beat them,” said Hampden coach Harry McCluskey. “That doesn’t mean we’ll win, but we feel pretty confident going in.”

Quarterback Eric Theiss and running backs Josh Strickland and Jon Letourneau lead the way for coach Mike Hathaway’s Leavitt club, which is seeking its first regional title since 1998 — when Leavitt went on to defeat Hampden 20-14 in the Class B state championship game.

Strickland rushed for 159 yards in the earlier meeting with the Broncos this season.

Fourth-seeded Hampden Academy is coming off a 35-7 victory over No. 5 Waterville in its EM Class B quarterfinal. The Broncos had a complete two-way performance in that effort, totaling 416 yards of offense compared to just 180 for the Purple Panthers.

Junior Jon Haws was the division’s top passer during the regular season, and Ryan Blake, Nick Stevens, Nolan Turner, Michael Jenkins, Cody Miller and Justin Rodgerson give the Broncos their own stable of playmakers.

“I think we have as many weapons as they have,” said McCluskey. “It probably will come down to mistakes and turnovers. It could be a defensive game, it could be an offensive game, but I really believe it probably will go down to the wire.”

The Hampden-Leavitt winner will meet the survivor of Friday’s other semifinal between No. 2 Morse of Bath, the defending regional champion, and No. 3 Gardiner, the 2007 Eastern B titlist, for a berth in the Class B state final.

Stearns Minutemen (7-2) at Foxcroft Academy Ponies (9-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Oakes Field, Dover-Foxcroft: The last time these teams met in postseason play, Foxcroft scratched out a 6-0 overtime victory in the 2003 Eastern Maine Class C final.

Foxcroft went on to win that year’s state title, and it has remained near the top of the LTC ranks ever since — a semifinal win over Stearns of Millinocket would land the Ponies in the regional final for the eighth time in nine years.

Stearns, meanwhile, endured reduced enrollment and some football hard times before bouncing back with a winning season in 2008 and an even stronger effort this year — the Minutemen secured their first postseason victory in six years last weekend with a 28-13 quarterfinal win over Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield.

Top-ranked Foxcroft’s dominance on both offense and defense this fall is reflected in its scoring 415 points in nine games while allowing just 48 — including a 41-0 regular-season victory over Stearns.

Senior quarterback Ryan Stroud has completed 67 of 126 passes for 1,196 yards with 25 touchdown passes and just three interceptions for the Ponies, while classmate Ian Champeon has accounted for nearly 1,200 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing and receiving.

Stearns, the No. 4 seed, has relied on the 1-2 rushing punch of halfback Billy Eurich (148 carries, 923 yards) and quarterback Jared McGreevey (92-508), but that duo managed just 61 yards on 21 carries in the earlier meeting at Dover-Foxcroft.

Mattanawcook Academy Lynx (7-2) at John Bapst Crusaders (8-1), 5 p.m. Saturday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: These teams meet in the Eastern C semifinals for the second time in three years, with John Bapst edging Mattanawcook 15-14 in their 2007 postseason clash.

Second-ranked John Bapst rebounded from its first loss in 19 games in solid fashion last weekend, building a 35-8 lead and then cruising to a 38-22 Eastern C quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Dexter.

Coach Dan O’Connell’s club features the LTC’s leading rusher in senior Billy Wetherbee, who surpassed the 1,500-yard mark for the season against Dexter.

Mattanawcook, the No. 3 team, has lost only to the top two seeds in the LTC, 28-7 to top-ranked Foxcroft Academy in Week 1 and 28-8 at John Bapst in Week 4.

Since then the Lynx have settled into a positive late-season rhythm with five straight wins, the latest an 18-6 quarterfinal victory over No. 6 Bucksport.

Ethan White, who began the season as a starting wide receiver, has emerged as one of the conference’s more versatile players from his quarterback slot. He rushed for 209 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries in the playoff win over Bucksport to increase his season rushing total to 1,146 yards and 15 touchdowns.

White also has completed 34 of 71 passes for 565 yards with seven TDs for coach Dave Hainer’s club.


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