So you want to be a high school football coach?
In some respects it’s no different than coaching in the NFL, certainly for the second-guessing that stems from controversial play-calling.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick continues to be derided for a fourth-and-2 decision he made to go for a first down from the Pats’ 28-yard-line with 2:08 left in a game against the Indianapolis Colts last November. New England, leading by six points at the time, completed a pass on the play but came up a yard short of the first down, and Indianapolis then drove 29 yards to score the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left.
A similar scenario played out at Bangor’s Cameron Stadium last Friday night during the Eastern Maine Class A championship game.
Lewiston held a 25-20 lead over Bangor with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter, but faced a fourth down on its 10 needing a yard for a first down that would have gone a long way toward securing the victory — given that Bangor needed a touchdown to take the lead and had just two timeouts remaining to stop the clock if the Blue Devils had retained possession.
“I thought they were going to punt to make us drive down the field,” said Bangor senior safety and captain Dylan Morris, “but we were having so much success on offense they wanted to take their chances.”
Lewiston briefly lined up in punt formation, but soon called its second timeout of the half when it discovered there were just 10 Blue Devil players on the field.
After the timeout, Lewiston lined up in a regular offensive formation, with quarterback Chris Madden barking out signals in an attempt to draw the Rams offsides to generate a first down by penalty.
“We thought they’d try to get us with the false snap count and we were ready for it, we stood our ground,” said Bangor senior quarterback-safety and captain Joe Seccareccia.
Lewiston then used its final timeout to discuss its options, which included going for the first down, punting out of its end zone or taking a safety to close the gap to 25-22 and then taking a free kick at its 20 that likely would have required Bangor to drive 50 to 60 yards for a game-tying field goal or game-winning touchdown.
The Blue Devils opted to go for the first down, and for the win, and lined up in a run formation.
“I looked at everybody and said ‘this is it,’” said Morris.
Bangor lined up in a tight defensive formation similar to what it used earlier in the season against the double-wing offense used by Messalonskee of Oakland, and had virtually all 11 players charging across the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop the play before it got going.
And while Lewiston needed just a yard, Bangor’s defense was wary about the Blue Devils running either inside or outside.
“We weren’t surprised either way, because that’s where they got most of their yards, outside on the pitch and the counter,” Seccareccia said.
Madden handed the ball off to speedy tailback Jeff Keene, who had been a dominant player on both sides of the ball throughout the game with bone-crushing hits on defense while averaging nearly 5 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns on offense.
Keene ran wide to the right, but Bangor’s defense was waiting. Blitzing defensive end John Kelly was the first to get to Keene, diving at the ballcarrier and grabbing his legs. Morris and teammate Josiah Hartley helped finish off the tackle, producing a 6-yard loss that gave Bangor the ball at the Lewiston 4.
“Collectively we decided to go for it,” said Lewiston coach Bill County, “and then it was just a matter of what play we were going to run. We gave it to a kid who had played very well all night long, but we didn’t get it.”
Bangor scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later on a 2-yard run by Hartley, then stopped Lewiston’s final possession on downs at the Rams’ 39-yard line with 1.5 seconds left.
“That was a great win,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, whose team will play Cheverus of Portland for the state title at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. “But that was even a tougher loss. That’s a tough one to lose.”