It’s regional semifinal weekend in the Eastern Maine high school football world, and the field of championship hopefuls will be halved once again.
No. 3 Mt. Blue Cougars (7-2) at No. 2 Bangor Rams (8-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: Bangor handled Mt. Blue 39-7 during Week 5 of the regular season in a game that essentially was decided when Rams defensive end John Kelley intercepted Mt. Blue quarterback Jordan Whitney’s first two passes of the game.
Yet the Cougars have lost only to Bangor and Pine Tree Conference regular-season leader Lawrence of Fairfield, two teams with a combined 16-2 record.
“Our guys think they’re pretty good,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “They hit us well, we just outscored them.”
Bangor tailback Josiah Hartley, with 914 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns, leads the Bangor offense, but the Rams remain at less than 100 percent physically, particularly with quarterback-safety Joe Seccareccia nursing a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing defense in last week’s 16-0 quarterfinal win over No. 7 Edward Little of Auburn — the Rams’ second straight shutout victory.
Bangor’s defensive secondary may face an even greater challenge against a Mt. Blue offense that features the passing of Whitney and 6-foot-4 wide receiver Cam Sennick.
“Because they pass so much,” said Hackett, “you can be ahead of them by two or three scores and it’s still not going to be easy.”
Bangor, which may have inherited the favorite’s role in the division in light of Lawrence’s quarterfinal loss to Brunswick last weekend, will be looking to shore up an offense that lost four fumbles last weekend.
“We haven’t scratched the surface of that perfect game all teams want to play,” said Hackett.
No. 8 Brunswick Dragons (6-3) at No. 4 Lewiston Blue Devils (7-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Don Roux Field, Lewiston: Perhaps the best thing for Lewiston is it’s not Lawrence of Fairfield, which has been ousted from the playoffs by Brunswick in each of the last two years, including last Friday when the Dragons rallied from a 13-0 deficit for a stunning 14-13 win over the host Bulldogs. The win earns instant respect for coach Dan Cooper’s club, which now faces another challenging road test against a Lewiston team that rebounded from its own humbling loss to rival Edward Little in its regular-season finale to overwhelm No. 5 Messalonskee of Oakland 42-13 last week. Lewiston features a three-headed running game featuring Jeff Turcotte (151 yards against Messalonskee), Joe McKinnon (104 yards, three touchdowns) and Jeff Keene. Lewiston already owns a win over Brunswick this season, a 28-12 win on Sept. 24 that was one of three straight losses the Dragons endured midway through the season before their current four-game win streak.
No. 5 Belfast Lions (5-4) at No. 1 Leavitt Hornets (9-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Turner Center: Leavitt boasts the state’s longest winning streak at 21 games after a 52-8 quarterfinal victory over No. 8 Morse of Bath. The Hornets, led by junior quarterback Jordan Hersom and junior tailback Jake Ouellette, are averaging 41.0 points per game and have scored more than 50 points four times, once during a 55-14 win over Belfast on Sept. 25. Belfast has won four of six games since that loss, including a 50-0 quarterfinal victory at No. 4 Camden Hills of Rockport last Friday. But Leavitt represents a different challenge, and the Lions and will need to try to control both the football and the clock behind senior quarterback Brad Reed and running backs Dylan Webster and Lani Eversage in order to keep the Hornets’ offense off the field.
No. 3 Gardiner Tigers (7-2) at No. 2 Hampden Academy Broncos (8-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Weatherbee Complex, Hampden: Hampden has powered its way to the No. 2 slot in the PTC Class B ranks thanks to a diverse offense and timely defense, with only an opening-night loss to defending state champion Leavitt separating coach Harry McCluskey’s club from an unbeaten season. But the Broncos will face their biggest test since Week 1 against a high-scoring Gardiner club — averaging 38.5 points per game — led by tailback Alonzo Connor. One of the state’s top rushers this fall with well over 1,000 yards, the explosive Connor rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns in a quarterfinal win over Mount Desert Island last Friday. Hampden has a talented offense of its own run by senior quarterback Jon Haws (53 of 90 passing, 845 yards, eight TDs, 2 INTs, and 344 rushing yards on 48 carries) and featuring several quality skill-position players including running backs Nick Stevens (64 carries, 860 yards), Logan Steward (452 rushing yards, 198 receiving yards) and Dylan Porter (46 carries, 278 yards) and tight end Cody Miller (21 receptions, 387 yards).
No. 5 Foxcroft Academy Ponies (5-4) at No. 1 Stearns Minutemen (9-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Alumni Field, Millinocket: These teams are frequent opponents in LTC postseason play, having met 11 times since Foxcroft last moved from Class B to Class C in 1994. Foxcroft holds a 6-5 lead in the series and has won their last four meetings, including a 28-8 victory in the 2009 semifinals. But that was at Dover-Foxcroft, when the Ponies were blessed with the most veterans. This game is in Millinocket, where the unbeaten Minutemen passed their two toughest tests of the regular season with wins over a healthy Calais-Woodland team in Week 4 and against John Bapst in Week 8 to clinch the No. 1 seed. Stearns shut out Foxcroft 35-0 earlier this season, and the Ponies will need to figure out a Minutemen defense that has yielded just 29 points in its first nine games. The Stearns offense features 1,000-yard rusher Billy Eurich, versatile quarterback Jared McGreevy and talented wideout Brandon McLaughlin.
No. 3 Maine Central Institute Huskies (6-3) at No. 2 John Bapst Crusaders (7-2), 5 p.m. Saturday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: When MCI knocked off John Bapst 13-7 at Pittsfield in Week 3 of the regular season, it was considered a shocking upset of one of the favorites for the LTC title. But the ensuing six weeks have shown that both clubs are worthy challengers for the league and Eastern C crown, with John Bapst featuring the conference’s top passing game in quarterback Jordan Charpentier and receivers Lucas Philippon, Mark Dieuveuil and Max Andrews, while MCI has used turnover-based opportunism and a balanced attack to average 29 points per game during its current four-game winning streak. Bapst also has benefited in recent weeks with a developing run game featuring Jake Leonard working behind a veteran line.