BANGOR — The last five weeks were trying times for Bangor High School tailback Josiah Hartley.
First a concussion, then two weeks off to recover before being cleared to return — followed by two games with more than 300 rushing yards but five frustrating fumbles.
But the 6-foot-5 senior showed himself to be back at full strength when his team needed it most Friday night, rushing for 72 yards during a fourth-quarter drive that produced the go-ahead touchdown, then intercepting a pass to set up an insurance score as No. 2 Bangor rallied past No. 3 Mt. Blue of Farmington 22-12 in a Pine Tree Conference Class A football semifinal at the Winkin Complex on the campus of Husson University.
“Football is battling adversity,” said Hartley, who finished the game with 210 rushing yards on 32 carries with no fumbles. “That’s what you’ve got to do to beat a good team, and that’s what we did tonight to come out on top.”
Hartley was at his best late in the game, rushing for 90 yards on 13 carries in the fourth quarter as Bangor rallied from a 12-7 deficit by scoring twice in the game’s final 4 minutes, 8 seconds.
“A lot of the guys on this team have played every sport there is,” said Hartley, who now has 1,124 rushing yards this season despite missing 2 1/2 games. “We’ve played from behind before, so we’ve been there. We just had to battle through it.”
The win means Bangor (9-1) will play for its second straight Eastern Maine Class A title next Friday night when coach Mark Hackett’s club hosts the winner of Saturday’s 6 p.m. semifinal at Lewiston between the fourth-ranked Blue Devils and No. 8 Brunswick.
“Our goal from the get-go was to get back to the state game,” said Bangor quarterback and safety Joe Seccareccia, who saw his first defensive duty since injuring his left shoulder two weeks ago. “Those are the unspoken words, we don’t talk about it a lot, but the Eastern Maine game is next week and that’s what we’re looking toward right now because to get to the state game we’ve got to win that game first.”
Bangor gained possession at its 28-yard line with 8:04 remaining after a fourth-and-5 pass from Mt. Blue quarterback Jordan Whitney to A.J. Larrabee fell incomplete, in part due to Seccareccia’s defensive coverage along the right sideline.
The Rams then turned the game over to Hartley and his blockers — linemen Elijah Hughes, Tyler Shanklin, Jacob Platte, Josh Bishop and Aaron Huntington, tight ends Nic Cota and Anthony Capuano, and fullback Jon Fader.
Hartley had runs of 7, 13, 8 and 6 yards to move the ball into Mt. Blue territory, then later took a pitch from Seccareccia and raced 23 yards to the Cougars’ 13. Three more runs by Hartley gave Bangor first-and-goal from the 1, and he hurdled over the goal line on the next play, his 10th carry of the drive.
Seccareccia then rolled out for the two-point conversion, giving Bangor a 15-12 lead.
“Hartley is a Division I or I-AA football player, and I was proud of our kids for tackling him as much as they did,” said Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin. “Then late in the game we started overpursuing. On their toss he’d cut it up quick, and we have some fast and aggressive linebackers and they started overpursuing, they were hustling like crazy, but it gave him some cutback lanes.”
Mt. Blue (7-3) tried to answer, but a long third-down pass from Whitney to 6-5 wideout Cam Sennick was underthrown, and Hartley stepped in to make the interception and return the ball 51 yards to the Cougars’ 19 with 2:47 to play.
“They had their best receiver over there, and he’s taller than I am,” said Hartley. “I don’t know if the quarterback got hit or not, but the ball came up short and I was able to get under it and attack it.”
Hartley than ran the ball twice for 11 more yards to give Bangor a first down at the 8. The Rams then got pushed back to the 15 by fumble and a quarterback sack, but Hartley ran for 7 yards on third down before Seccareccia (6 of 14 passing for 115 yards) found Cota open in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 33.3 seconds left.
“I just tied to get open and our line blocked great, it was a great team effort,” said Cota. “Joe came out in the flat, read his keys then saw me and made a great throw.”
Mt. Blue, which dropped a 39-7 decision to Bangor during the regular season, came out more intent on running the ball against the Rams in the rematch despite the game being moved to an artificial turf field earlier in the day due to the rain and its potential effect on Bangor’s regular home field at Cameron Stadium.
Tailback Eric Berry, fullback Matt Davis and Sennick all had early success on the ground, setting up a 27-yard option pass from Sennick to Larrabee to give Mt. Blue a 6-0 lead with 9:13 left in the second quarter.
That sparked a flurry of offense, first as Bangor mounted an eight-play, 72-yard march that ended when Hartley — who had six carries for 59 yards on this drive — scored from the 3 with 5:41 remaining in the first half.
Carl Farnham’s extra-point kick gave the Rams a 7-6 lead, but that lasted only as long as it took Mt. Blue to march 63 yards to regain the lead when Davis powered in from the 2 with 28.1 seconds left before intermission.
Mt. Blue (7-3) 0—-12—-0—-0—-12
Bangor (9-1) 0——7—-0—15—-22
MB-Larrabee 27 pass from Sennick (kick failed)
B-Hartley 3 run (Farnham kick)
MB-Davis 2 run (rush failed)
B-Hartley 1 run (Seccareccia rush)
B-Cota 8 pass from Seccareccia (Farnham kick)