Week 9 of the Maine high school football season brings with it the sense of urgency that comes with playoff time — win and advance or lose and be eliminated.
No. 7 Edward Little of Auburn (5-3) at No. 2 Bangor (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Bangor's first-round draw in the Pine Tree Conference Class A playoffs is one of the league's hottest teams, as Edward Little is riding a four-game winning streak after stunning Lewiston 26-7 last weekend.
"I think they're a good football team," said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, "very much like Messalonskee. They're not real flashy, they play hard-nosed, old-fashioned football. They're a real good test for us."
EL emphasizes a run-oriented offense powered by tailback Teven Colon, who has rushed for 1,157 yards and 11 touchdowns out of the Red Eddies' power-I set, including 184 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries against Lewiston.
"They're very patient on offense and he's as good as any back in the league," said Hackett. "He's quick and he's strong."
Edward Little's defense has allowed more than 20 points just twice in eight games and yielded no more than 23 points in any game. The Red Eddies have allowed just 13 points during their current winning streak, which includes victories over Oxford Hills of South Paris, Skowhegan, Mount Ararat of Topsham and Lewiston.
"They haven't given up many points," said Hackett. "It comes down to who's tougher."
Bangor is coming off a 13-0 win over Brewer, a game that marked the return to tailback Josiah Hartley from a two-week injury absence. The senior rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Joe Seccareccia aggravated a shoulder injury during the game but is expected to play against EL, as is fullback Jon Fader, out the last two weeks with an ankle injury.
The Bangor-Edward Little winner will face the survivor of the quarterfinal between No. 3 Mt. Blue of Farmington (6-2) and No. 6 Cony of Augusta (4-4) in next week's semifinals. Other first-round matches Friday send No. 8 Brunswick (5-3) to No. 1 Lawrence of Fairfield (8-0) and No. 5 Lewiston (5-3) to No. 4 Messalonskee of Oakland (5-3).
No. 7 Waterville (3-5) at No. 2 Hampden Academy (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday: The records suggest these teams are going in opposite directions, with injury-riddled Waterville entering postseason play on a four-game losing streak while Hampden has won seven straight contests since opening with a loss to top-ranked and defending state champion Leavitt of Turner Center. But these teams just met two weeks ago with Hampden eking out a 21-20 victory at Waterville. Nick Stevens' return from injury would bolster the Hampden running game.
No. 6 Mount Desert Island (4-4) at No. 3 Gardiner (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday: MDI struggled to the finish line, losing to Camden Hills of Rockport and Morse of Bath in its last two games to fall from a potential home quarterfinal to a rugged road test against a Gardiner team that defeated the Trojans 56-41 during the regular season. MDI will try to control the ball and the clock with its run-oriented offense, and will need to be successful at that in an effort to contain explosive Gardiner tailback Alonzo Connor.
No. 5 Belfast (4-4) at No. 4 Camden Hills (4-4), 2 p.m. Friday at Rockport: These teams met just last weekend, with Camden Hills earning a 15-14 win at Belfast to secure home-field advantage for the rematch. The Windjammers have gotten only limited duty from injured two-way standout Collin Downs in recent weeks but have played tough in a three-point loss to Gardiner and wins over MDI and Belfast to close out just their second regular season of varsity play. Jacob Powers, with more than 1,400 rushing yards, is one of the top running backs in the PTC Class B ranks, while Adam Landwehr has moved from fullback to quarterback in Downs' absence to provide Camden Hills a passing game. Belfast boasts a dangerous offensive trio in quarterback Brad Reed, Dylan Webster and Lani Eversage during a bounce-back season under coach Chris Bartlett.
No. 8 Orono (3-5) at No. 1 Stearns (8-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Millinocket: This is one of two LTC quarterfinals involving teams that did not meet during the regular season. Stearns preserved the top seed last week with a hard-fought victory over John Bapst of Bangor, and has the league's top defense after yielding just 21 points in eight games. Orono, which has dropped its last two games, has the LTC's leading rusher in Dominic Mowrer (167 carries, 1,164 yards), while Stearns' Billy Eurich (131-973) is not far behind.
No. 7 Rockland (4-4) at No. 2 John Bapst (6-2), 1 p.m. Saturday at Bangor: John Bapst defeated Rockland 26-6 in Week 2, and the Crusaders are coming off a solid effort in defeat against Stearns while Rockland lost its home finale to Old Town. This game features two of the LTC's more wide open offenses, with Bapst's Jordan Charpentier the league's top passer with 1,128 yards and Rockland's Sam Meklin second with 747 yards. Rockland must hold its own against John Bapst's offensive and defensive fronts led by senior tackle Chris Desmond.
No. 6 Calais-Woodland (5-3) at No. 3 Maine Central Institute (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Pittsfield: Calais-Woodland, making its third postseason appearance in as many years as a varsity program, was headed toward a top-three finish in the LTC until injuries claimed most of its starting backfield. Fullback Spencer McCormick returned last week to surpass 1,000 rushing yards, but backfield mate Ryan Cavanaugh's status remains uncertain. MCI, playing its first postseason game at home since 2000, has forced a league-leading 28 turnovers — 12 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries — and turned four directly into touchdowns.
No. 5 Foxcroft Academy (4-4) at No. 4 Bucksport (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday: Defending EM champion Foxcroft battled its way back into postseason play with back-to-back wins over Old Town and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, while Bucksport has won five of its last six games, a run that began with a one-point Week 3 victory over Foxcroft. Both teams rely heavily on the run, Bucksport led by Mike Cummings (87 carries, 617 yards) and Foxcroft featuring Dylan Andrews (103-754).