BANGOR — You know all that junk they say about throwing the records out the window when traditional rivals meet? Well, when it comes to the Bangor-Brewer football rivalry, that kind of talk really was junk for most of the last 40 years.
The Bangor Rams have pretty much owned the series of late, especially since Brewer went from a Class A school to a Class B in student enrollment. Bangor came into Friday’s 103rd meeting having won 17 of its last 18 against the Witches. Throw in the Rams’ 6-1 record, Brewer’s 0-7 record, and the fact the regular-season finale was Bangor’s homecoming game, Brewer’s chances of a win didn’t look good.
Nobody told that to the Brewer kids, however, who gave the Rams all they could handle and then some before the final seconds ticked off in Bangor’s hard-fought 13-0 victory on a cold, windy night at Cameron Stadium.
“The kids played hard. We’re not big enough to just sit there and read. We need to attack and that’s a high-risk, high-reward defense,” said Brewer coach Don Farnham. “Our guys played with a lot of heart tonight, and with the talent Bangor has, that’s probably the only way we can beat them is with heart. I’m really proud of the kids.”
Bangor, which nailed down the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs with the win, outgained Brewer 216 yards to 54 overall and had 14 first downs to Brewer’s four, but the Rams also committed seven penalties for 70 yards and fumbled away the ball five times against a stunting, blitzing, gambling Witches defensive scheme.
“Brewer makes teams play sloppy and not play like themselves,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “We try to mimic (in practice) what they do, but you really can’t. You just have to play it and adjust and get used to it.”
The Rams lost starting quarterback, starting safety and punter Joe Seccareccia, who left the game with a shoulder injury after being tackled with 4:54 left in the first half. Dylan Morris, also a starting safety, came in and not only filled in capably, but gave the Rams a lift in a scoreless struggle.
Morris connected on his first two pass attempts — both to Nick Sherwood for 16 total yards — and had a 5-yard run in the second quarter, but really turned it on in the second half.
“Dylan stepped up. He gave the team some life, especially with our running game,” said Josiah Hartley, who returned to action after being out the last two weeks with an injury.
Morris got it going on Bangor’s third possession of the third quarter after the previous two ended in first-down fumbles. Starting from the Rams’ 20-yard line, he gained 19 yards on two carries, then reeled off a 30-yard carry after Hartley rushed for 13. After an incompletion, penalty and 4-yard run, Morris found Nic Cota wide open down the middle for a 20-yard touchdown reception. Carl Farnham added the extra-point kick and Bangor was up 7-0 with 5:40 left in the third.
After each team traded long possessions ending in punts, Bangor’s defense forced Brewer to go three downs and punt. A shanked punt from the Witches’ 21 went out of bounds just five yards upfield and gave Bangor the ball at the 26. Three positive runs by three different ballcarriers later, Hartley went 11 yards off right tackle on the fourth play and gave the Rams big breathing room with a TD to make it 13-0 with 3:23 left in the game.
It was a good news/bad news game for Hartley, who gained 138 yards on 27 carries but also lost two fumbles in the first half.
“We had to battle some adversity early on and I had to get some rust off,” Hartley said. “I’m not one to make excuses. You’ve got to be able to make adjustments.”
Morris finished with 36 yards on 3-for-9 passing and another 67 on seven carries.
“We were just trying to make first downs and we didn’t want to be too fancy,” said Morris, whose cousin Nate Morris plays tight end and defensive end for Brewer and whose father David used to coach for Brewer. “We didn’t expect it to be that close. We expected a battle, but not that close. There’s a lot on the line for us with this rivalry.”
Brewer also lost its starting quarterback when Dylan Oxley left the game with a possible hairline fracture of his left leg late in the first quarter.