BANGOR, Maine — One by one, the game balls were handed out Friday night, and each time it was a lineman accepting his reward,
Tommy Augustine, Jacob Thompson, Joe Quinn, Andrew Logan, Ben Rapaport, Josh Bishop and end John Kelley were among those in the receiving line after the top-ranked and undefeated Bangor football team reached the Eastern Maine Class A final with a 25-13 win over No. 4 Messalonskee of Oakland at Cameron Stadium.
“This game was all about the front,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “I think that was just a great effort by the front on both sides of the ball.
“We had some big individual plays, but when we needed it our defensive front handled their run just well enough, and offensively we ran about two plays down the stretch on our last drive and the guys up front wore them down.”
That final drive, coming after Messalonskee had closed to within 19-13 on a 36-yard pass from Dylan Foster to Sam Dexter with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter, involved 12 consecutive running plays — all by senior tailback Lonnie Hackett.
His final run, a 4-yard dive into the end zone, completed a six-minute, 57-yard march and gave Bangor a lead too great for the Eagles to overcome.
“We stopped a lot of things tonight,” said Messalonskee coach Wes Littlefield, “but you’ve got to take your hat off to Hackett. He’s a good running back running behind a big line. That’s what we needed to stop and we couldn’t when we had to.”
Bangor (10-0) will host No. 3 Brunswick (9-1) for the regional title next weekend. Brunswick upended No. 2 Lawrence of Fairfield 27-14 on Friday night.
Bangor’s late-game offensive statement was complemented by a defensive effort that limited Messalonskee’s double-wing offense to 94 rushing yards on 43 carries.
“Person to person they’re maybe not as big as us, but they do the wedge and they do a good job,” said Augustine, a senior tackle. “We just had to fire out low and take control, and we were able to do that.”
Lonnie Hackett, meanwhile, finished with 129 rushing yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns, including a 20-yard run to give Bangor a 7-0 lead 45 seconds into the second quarter.
That score was set up by a pass interception that safety Joe Seccarecca returned 35 yards to the Messalonskee 38.
Hackett then carried the ball on three straight plays, initially for gains of 12 and 6 yards before going wide around the right corner to the end zone.
Messalonskee then drove to the Bangor 21 before Kelley stopped fullback Desmond Nutter for no gain on third down and Foster threw an incompletion on fourth-and-4 to end the Eagles’ deepest penetration of the half.
Messalonskee (6-4) pulled within 7-6 with 8:12 left in the third quarter when Foster found Dexter (five catches, 130 yards) alone on the left side for a 75-yard TD pass — the Eagles’ first completion of the game.
And while Messalonskee’s defense backed that up by forcing Bangor to punt on its next possession, it was the Eagles’ next punt that turned into instant offense for the Rams.
Seccareccia caught the kick at the Bangor 46, then sprinted down the left sideline before cutting back en route to the end zone to give Bangor a 13-6 lead with 4:11 left in the period.
“The punt was high and they weren’t coming down as fast as I thought they were going to,” said Seccareccia. “The coaches yelled that I had time, so I took the punt and went up the sideline. One guy overpursued so I cut back and spun past another guy and into the end zone.”
Another big play gave Bangor its largest lead at 19-6 with 36.7 seconds left in the third quarter, as Seccareccia (7-of-9 passing for 107 yards) found Kelley open over the middle for a 67-yard pass play.
Bangor had primary receivers Nate Henigan and Josiah Hartley on the left side, and when Hackett came in motion to join Kelley on the right side, Messalonskee didn’t have enough defenders to cover all of the receivers.
Kelley caught the ball near midfield, then sprinted to the end zone.
“When I first turned my head around, I was like, Oh my God,’ and then I just kept running,” said Kelley.