Week 5 of the high school season — and the knowledge that it marks the start of the second half of the season — begins to bring with it a sense of urgency among teams vying for postseason berths.
The schedule is beginning to shake out some of the pretenders from the contenders, but so many contenders remain.
Take the LTC, for instance, where Stearns of Millinocket emerged from its showdown with Calais-Woodland last Friday night as the lone remaining undefeated team in Eastern Maine Class C. Yet John Bapst of Bangor and Calais-Woodland lurk just one game behind, with six other teams — Bucksport, Foxcroft Academy, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, Old Town, Orono and Rockland — all at .500 and in control of their own destinies.
Mt. Blue Cougars (3-1) vs. Bangor Rams (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: Bangor is now one of just three remaining unbeatens in the Pine Tree Conference Class A ranks along with Lawrence of Fairfield and Lewiston.
And the Rams have done it by successfully defending against a myriad of opposing offenses, from the spread employed by Cony of Augusta in Week 3, to the double wing used by Skowhegan in Week 1 and Messalonskee of Oakland last weekend, when only a touchdown on the game’s final play of scrimmage stood between Bangor and its second shutout of the season.
Now Bangor must return to defending the spread, as Mt. Blue brings to Bangor the most prolific passing offense in the league led by quarterback Jordan Whitney (40-73, 637 yards, six TDs, three interceptions) and receivers Cam Sennick (15 catches, 236 yards, four TDs) and A.J. Larrabee (eight catches, 187 yards, 1 TD).
“With everything we’ve seen defensively from seven-on-seven during the summer to the spread and the double wing, it’s not so much re-teaching them as it is just revisiting those defenses,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “There’s not much we can see that we haven’t seen before.”
Bangor’s offense, meanwhile seems to add a dimension with each passing week. Joe Seccareccia (30-58, 502 yards, six TDs, two interceptions) remains one of the conference’s most accurate passers to a stable of receivers led by Nick Sherwood (11 catches, 236 yards, four TDs) and tailback Josiah Hartley (11 catches, 146 yards, two TDs). Hartley also has four consecutive 100-yard rushing games and ranks third in the PTC with 497 yards and six touchdowns on 73 carries.
Hampden Academy Broncos (3-1) vs. Morse Shipbuilders (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday, McMann Field, Bath: Hampden has quietly forged a three-game winning streak thanks to timely defense and an effective ground game led by junior Nick Stevens, who has rushed for more than 220 yards in each of the Broncos’ last two games.
Morse is rebuilding this fall under new head coach Jason Darling, but the Shipbuilders showed some signs of things to come last Saturday with a 27-17 win at Winslow. Sophomore D’Vaughn Myers rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown, while first-year starting quarterback Kevin McKellar completed 13 of 18 passes for 118 yards and rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Stearns Minutemen (4-0) vs. Maine Central Institute (2-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Alumni Field, Pittsfield: The most consistent team in the LTC faces one of four teams in the conference that despite having a 2-2 record has yet to win or lose more than one game in a row. Stearns rallied in the second half for a 22-8 win over Calais-Woodland that featured a steadfast defense led by linebacker Billy Eurich, the LTC’s player of the week, and tackle Charlie Tapley.
MCI followed up its biggest win of the season, a 13-7 win over 3-1 John Bapst, with a 48-6 loss at Foxcroft Academy last Friday night. The Huskies will need to find offensive balance and limit turnovers against a Stearns first-team defense that has yielded just one touchdown in four games.
Old Town Coyotes (2-2) vs. Orono Red Riots (2-2), 7 p.m. Saturday at Orono: Homecoming weekend at Orono takes on a new excitement with a reinvigorated Old Town team coming to town. The Coyotes secured their first two-win season since 1998 last weekend with a 44-26 victory over Mount View of Thorndike, while Orono also reached .500 with a 51-14 win over Dexter.
Orono’s Dominic Mowrer (214 yards vs. Dexter, 739 yards on 94 carries for the season) ranks second in the conference in rushing, while Old Town’s Ryan Boyington is coming off a 166-yard, two-touchdown against Mount View.
The game originally was scheduled for Friday but has been postponed until Saturday due to forcecasts for inclement weather Friday.
Foxcroft Academy Ponies (2-2) vs. John Bapst Crusaders (3-1), 7 p.m. Saturday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: This game is a rematch of the 2009 LTC championship game in which Foxcroft held on for a 14-13 victory.
The Ponies put forth a prideful effort last Friday night, halting a two-game losing streak with a convincing 48-6 victory over MCI, while John Bapst bounced back from its only loss of the season with a 20-6 victory over Mattanawcook.
Foxcroft likes to spread its offense around, with Dylan Andrews (49 carries, 350 yards, four touchdowns) leading five Ponies with at least 100 rushing yards. John Bapst boasts a capable passing attack featuring quarterback Jordan Charpentier (four touchdowns, no interceptions) working with Max Andrews and Lucas Philippon.