BANGOR — Since his three immediate predecessors all led the John Bapst football team to the Eastern Maine Class C championship game, surely Jordan Charpentier felt no pressure after earning the Crusaders’ starting quarterback job this fall.
But whether he felt pressured or not, Charpentier didn’t have the time to worry about it.
Bill Wetherbee, a 2009 Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist who rushed for nearly 1,900 yards last year, had graduated, while top returning running back Jake Leonard was nursing a broken thumb.
So from necessity the most prolific passing attack in the LTC this season evolved, helping coach Dan O’Connell’s club to an 8-2 record and its regular trip to the regional final, this year at top-ranked and undefeated Stearns of Millinocket on Saturday afternoon.
“There was a little pressure coming in,” said Charpentier, who has passed for an LTC-leading 1,450 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. “But I also knew that we had what I’d say are the best receivers in the league and our line is brilliant, so I knew we’d be pretty good with the pass.”
Charpentier saw little varsity quarterback duty during his first three years at the Bangor school, but patiently watched as Kyle Gallant, Derek Smith and Shane Hass guided John Bapst deep into postseason play — with Smith taking the Crusaders to the 2008 Class C state title.
“I had good upperclassmen to learn from, and that’s really benefited me this year,” he said. “What I’ve learned from them helped me know what to expect this year.”
Charpentier has completed passes to nine different receivers, a group led by tight end Max Andrews, wideouts Lucas Philippon and Mark Dieuveuil, and slot back Andrew Catlin. That foursome has combined for 19 touchdown catches this fall, including six during playoff wins over Rockland and Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield.
“Max is the biggest one, he’s like the lumberjack lumbering across the field,” said Catlin. “Lucas has the wide receiver build and can jump over people, too, and Mark and I both have speed so it all works out well.”
And as John Bapst’s passing game has evolved throughout the season, so, too, has the receivers’ trust in their quarterback and the quarterback’s confidence in his receivers.
“No matter what down it is I know I can go to any one of them, and that’s what makes them hard to guard,” said Charpentier. “All of them are capable of making the big play or making the short catch.”
The passing game also has benefitted from the presence of an experienced offensive line in Chris Desmond, Keith Nelson, Bill Stoddard, John Ashman and Brandon Blustajn.
“There have been a lot of good offensive lines in the LTC, but they haven’t always pass-blocked well,” said O’Connell. “This group enjoys pass blocking and is good at it.”
That’s despite the fact that just a year ago the line’s primary job was blocking for Wetherbee and the Crusaders’ rushing attack.
“It’s actually a lot easier for the linemen now,” said Desmond, a senior tackle. “All we really do is make a big wall and stand there and let the receivers do their thing.”
That work along the line of scrimmage enables Charpentier to concentrate more on finding the open receiver than worrying about oncoming pass rushers.
“As the season has gone on we’ve been able to become more intricate with what we’re doing,” said O’Connell. “We’ve asked more of Jordan, and for a kid who’s still only played 10 games as a varsity quarterback he’s really starting to understand how to look guys off, how to make safeties move in a certain direction and then go back to an assumed read on a timing play and still make the play.”
John Bapst will be facing Stearns for the second time in four weeks, having dropped a 21-7 decision at Millinocket on the final weekend of the regular season.
The wind was blowing mightily that night so the Crusaders scaled back their playbook, with Charpentier attempting just seven passes — completing four for 30 yards with an interception.
Short of a hurricane slamming down Alumni Field on Saturday, expect a more balanced John Bapst offense in the rematch.
“The wind was a factor when we played them before,” said Charpentier, “but we also thought we might get the chance to face them again, so we didn’t want to show them too much.”