Sept. 5, 2008, marked a unique evening in LTC football circles.
Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln rallied past Foxcroft Academy 14-12, at Oakes Field in Dover-Foxcroft, marking the Ponies’ first home-field loss since 2001.
At Victory Field in Old Town, meanwhile, Old Town opened its 2008 season with just its fourth win in six years over a Mount View of Thorndike team that at the time was just beginning its second varsity season.
It’s taken another two years for history to repeat itself –- sort of — but last Friday night’s Eastern Maine Class C football results produced similar scenarios at both locations.
Old Town scored its first victory since that win over Mount View by rallying for a 24-20 win over Mattanawcook Academy at Victory Field, while Calais-Woodland sent Foxcroft to its first home-field loss since the 2008 opener – and just its second defeat in 49 home games since Oct. 5, 2001 — with a 36-14 victory over the Ponies.
For both of the winners, there was a measure of revenge involved. MA defeated Old Town 85-19 in their 2009 regular-season meeting, while Foxcroft had defeated Calais-Woodland 55-6 in last year’s LTC quarterfinals en route to winning the Eastern C championship.
“The kids were probably more fired up and emotional than I’ve ever seen them since I’ve been coaching here,” said third-year Calais-Woodland coach Ian Pratt. “They all remembered, and they were motivated from snap one to play football.
“It meant a lot to them. Any time you can go to Foxcroft Academy against a program like they have there and come out with a win it’s a big win – it’s only happened [three times] in 10 years.”
For Old Town, Friday’s win ended a 16-game losing streak since the 2008 opener, and provided evidence that the double-wing offense and 46 Gambler defense brought to the program by new coach Steve Calande are beginning to take hold.
The Coyotes trailed 12-0 early, then 20-16 in the second half before scoring the winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
“You worry that the kids might be ready to quit, that’s your biggest concern,” said Calande of a program that began the season just 4-62 over the previous eight years. “But I told them we were dominating the play, we were going up and down the field, but we were just doing the little things to prevent us scoring. We just had to clean some things up.”
Ultimately Old Town used the offensive work of quarterback Tyler Whitmore, running backs Dan Rivers, Steve Lilly and Ryan Boyington and tight end Levi Stokes to score the game’s last touchdown behind a rebuilt line featuring senior tackles Anthony Parent and Brad Ehman.
“We did what the kids call “power hour,” said Calande. “We ran power off-tackle so many times in a row like we run it in practice against 16 or 18 kids. We pounded it in, and then the defense did the job.”
Calande, Old Town’s sixth head coach in the last eight years, is seeking to instill collective confidence in his players by stressing individual accountability.
“We’ve come in with the idea that simple things are what win football games,” said Calande, who was the head coach at Boothbay in 2008 and 2009. “As coaches we’re trying to maximize the kids’ ability to work together to enable them to be as successful as they can be.”
Like Old Town, Calais-Woodland relied on its double-wing offense to score its breakthrough victory at Foxcroft.
“We ran real hard off tackle, we did what we do,” said Pratt, who is seeking to guide his team to its third playoff appearances in as many years as a varsity program this fall. “We didn’t do anything special, but we just executed real well.”
Pratt gave considerable credit to his team’s line: tackles Casey Arbo and Jordan McLellan, guards Matt Cummings and Jacob Sterner, center Noah Myers and tight ends Devon Staples and Marcus Bacco.
“The kids blocked really well, and the holes were there,” Pratt said.
Spencer McCormick was the chief beneficiary of that blocking while rushing for three touchdowns, while backfield mate Ryan Cavanaugh added two scores behind quarterback Scott Carpenter, one of the relatively few newcomers to a veteran starting lineup.
“He’s really executing the offense well and running the options and the fakes,” said Pratt of Carpenter, who played for the Silverados as a freshman and sophomore but sat out last year to focus on wrestling, where he is a two-time Class C state champion.
“He gets tackled a lot when he doesn’t have the ball, which says a lot about how he is running the fakes.”
Both Calais-Woodland and Old Town are benefitting this year from increased participation, with both teams numbering in the mid-30s.
“Having kids back makes a big difference,” said Pratt. “We’re more experienced, and we have more depth”