FAIRFIELD — Thwarted by a goal-line stand that denied them a touchdown just before intermission, the Lawrence Bulldogs countered with suffocating defense of their own in the second half Saturday night to surge past Bangor 21-14 in a battle of Class A football unbeatens before a crowd estimated at 3,000 at Keyes Field.
With the win coach John Hersom’s club (7-0) took a big step toward securing home-field advantage throughout the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs that begin in two weeks. Bangor dips to 6-1 pending its regular-season finale against Brewer next Friday.
“We knew we had to come out with heart and play as a family like we have all year,” said Lawrence quarterback and defensive back Spencer Carey, a sophomore who ended Bangor’s final possession of the game with an interception. “And we’re as big a family as you’ll find in Maine.”
Bangor, which used two big plays as well as its last-minute defensive stand to take a 14-7 halftime lead, mustered just 32 yards and no first downs after intermission against a quick, aggressive Lawrence defense that a week earlier had held then-unbeaten Lewiston to minus-10 yards in the final two quarters of a 25-6 victory.
“We knew Lawrence was a second-half team, and that’s what we’re working on,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “But if you don’t get a first down in the second half you’re not going to beat anybody. They’re a very good football team, and we just didn’t make enough plays.”
Lawrence tied the game on a 3-yard run by senior Blair Blaisdell with 6:19 left in the third quarter. That capped a 46-yard drive aided by an illegal contact to the head penalty against Bangor followed by an 18-yard run to the 3 by Blaisdell.
The Bulldogs took the lead on their next possession, as junior tailback Shaun Carroll raced 80 yards down the left sideline to the end zone to give Lawrence a 21-14 advantage with 4:26 left in the third period.
That run epitomized the success Lawrence had running to the outside throughout the contest, a tactic that accounted for the majority of its 227 rushing yards.
“This is the fastest team we’ve had since I’ve been around,” said Blaisdell. “We’ve got some running backs that are pretty good, and Shaun Carroll is very fast.”
Playing without starting tailback Josiah Hartley and fullback Jon Fader — both in street clothes due to injuries — Bangor simply had no offensive answers late in the game and was further hampered by poor field position. The Rams never got beyond their 27-yard line during the fourth quarter.
“Our interior defense has been good all year,” said Carey. “Our secondary has been doubted all year, but we’ve always stepped it up. We’ve all got each other’s backs.”
Lawrence finished with a 322-159 advantage in total yardage, with Carroll gaining 95 yards on 11 rushes and Blaisdell adding 63 yards on 16 tries. Carey completed 6 of 12 passes for 25 yards.
Junior tailback Wyatt Frost rushed for a team-high 34 yards on nine attempts for Bangor, while senior quarterback Joe Seccareccia completed 5 of 15 passes for 78 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“I think Lawrence had a little more emotion,” said Hackett. “They probably didn’t like losing in the first half and came back out with more emotion. I don’t think they did anything all that different, we just didn’t make the plays and they did. Offensively they started attacking that tight end side and we missed a couple of tackles and they went. A few big plays made the difference.”
Bangor jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession, as Seccareccia completed a 59-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Nick Sherwood. Sherwood made a tough catch on the hard-thrown ball into his body with a defender right behind him, then sprinted down the right sideline.
Lawrence drove 63 yards in seven plays to tie the game on a 22-yard touchdown run by Blaisdell with 31 seconds left in the opening period. A 25-yard end around by Mark Yandian advanced the ball into Bangor territory.
That tie lasted all of 14 seconds, as Bangor senior Joe Stanevicz returned the subsequent kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams a 14-7 edge. Stanevicz initially raced up the center of the field, then cut to his left at the Bangor 40 and outraced the Lawrence defense the rest of the way.
Lawrence threatened after recovering a Bangor fumble at midfield with 4:23 left in the first half, advancing to a first-and-goal at the Bangor 3 moments later on a 32-yard pass from Carey to junior wideout Alex Leathers.
But one play later Bangor’s Tyler Shanklin sacked Carey for a 5-yard loss to the 9, and a fourth-down pass from Carey to Leathers went incomplete.
Bangor (6-1) 14-0-0-0 — 14
Lawrence (7-0) 7-0-14-0 — 21
B—Sherwood 59 pass from Seccareccia (Farnham kick)
L—Blaisdell 22 run (Belanger kick)
B—Stanevicz 90 kickoff return (Farnham kick)
L—Blaisdell 3 run (Belanger kick)
L—Carroll 80 run (Belanger kick)