Ponies’ stable has plenty of players

Posted Nov. 11, 2009, at 9:38 p.m.

DOVER–FOXCROFT, Maine — One reason for John Bapst of Bangor’s run to the 2008 Class C football state championship was its abundance of skill-position playmakers.

Foxcroft Academy hopes the same formula produces a similar result this Saturday when the top-ranked and undefeated Ponies host the Crusaders for the LTC Class C crown at Oakes Field.

In quarterback Ryan Stroud, halfbacks Ian Champeon and Chase Hutchinson and wide receivers Josiah Richard and Robbie Harmon, Foxcroft boasts depth at the skill positions that rivals John Bapst’s 2008 contingent of Derek Smith, Chase Huckestein, Bill Wetherbee, Shane Hass and Chris Fogler.

“The first time I watched Foxcroft on film, one of the first things I said to my assistants was ‘Who do they look like?’” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “Their skill sets are a little different than we had, but they have four, five or six athletes playing the skill positions who can all go the distance.”

That contingent has helped coach Danny White’s club average 44.3 points per game this fall en route to a 10-0 record heading into its second showdown of the season against No. 2 John Bapst (9-1).

Foxcroft ended its regular season with a 46-15 victory over Bapst.

“They’re all unique playmakers,” said White. “Robbie hits you with the deep-ball threat because he can run by anybody. Josiah’s kind of a hybrid, he can do short passes, he runs great routes, and we have the option of involving him in some trick plays.

“Ian could be a 25- to 30-touch back for any team, and Chase has the ability to be a playmaker on both offense and defense because he can create interceptions, and he’s also had success in the punt return game.

“They’re all diverse in their own ways, and Ryan has been our leader since Day 1.”

Stroud, in his first full season as Foxcroft’s starting quarterback, has completed 77 of 148 passes for 1,412 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

And he has spread the wealth, as Champeon, Richard, Harmon and Hutchinson each have at least six touchdown catches.

“It definitely makes things a lot easier having all of those guys who are really good athletes,” said Stroud. “I have all the confidence in the world that when I throw a pass to Ian, Chase, Robbie or Josiah, any of my guys are going to come down with it. That’s the kind of confidence a lot of quarterbacks would do anything for.”

Champeon has been the team’s leading rusher and receiver, with nearly 900 yards on the ground and 542 yards on 33 pass receptions to go with 24 total touchdowns.

“Ian’s always been able to catch the ball well but we haven’t always used that,” said Stroud. “It’s been a weapon that’s been kind of hidden for a long time, but coach White’s been able to add that to our arsenal.”

Hutchinson similarly has been effective both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, while Harmon and Richard have complemented each other on the outside.

“Having all these guys has really opened up so much for me and for Robbie,” said Richard. “If teams try to cover Robbie more, that’s opened it up for me, and if they try to cover me more he’s always wide open.

“Teams have to think about the running backs coming out of the backfield, too. That also gives us opportunities.”

The same Ponies also have provided an athleticism in the linebacking corps and defensive backfield that have limited opposing teams to 5.0 points per game and forced 34 turnovers in eight regular-season games.

Richard’s seven interceptions led the LTC, while Hutchinson (5) and Harmon (4) weren’t far behind. Champeon is the team’s leading tackler at linebacker.

“On defense we’ve been even better because we fill every position with an athlete, and everyone’s a playmaker,” said Hutchinson. “In every game someone has had a big game, maybe with 14 or 15 tackles as an individual or with two or three interceptions and a fumble recovery.”

Foxcroft hopes that trend continues as it pursues its sixth Eastern Maine title in the last eight years.

“Most teams are blessed if they have more than one,” said White, “but we have four and even five playmakers. It’s definitely an advantage.”

eclark@bangordailynews.net

990-8045

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