High school football returned to Alfond Stadium on the campus of the University of Maine last October for the first time since 1999 when John Bapst of Bangor defeated Orono 35-22.
On Friday evening, preseason high school football will come to the artificial turf of Morse Field, with a doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m.
John Bapst will face Camden Hills of Rockport in the opener, followed at approximately 7:30 p.m. by Bangor against Hampden Academy.
A single admission will be charged for both games, $4 for adults and $2 for students and seniors.
“Any chance to make something like this an event for the kids, I’m all for it,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett.
The doubleheader came about in part because both Bangor and John Bapst originally were scheduled by their respective leagues to host exhibition games this weekend, and school officials were concerned that with a turn of bad weather prior to the games it might damage their mutual home field, Cameron Stadium in Bangor, before the start of the regular season.
“This way if we have a bad weather day, at the end of the night it wouldn’t hurt the turf at UMaine and our field is still OK,” said Bangor athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine.
Vanidestine contacted John Bapst athletic administrator Rick Sinclair and football coach Dan O’Connell, Hampden football coach Harry McCluskey and Camden Hills athletic adminstrator Bill Hughes and found all willing with the doubleheader concept at UMaine.
“John Bapst had played there last year,” said Vanidestine, “and we thought by bringing the games to campus and having them in the stadium up there it would make it special for everyone.”
The first game matches John Bapst, which has reached the LTC (Class C) championship game each of the last four years, against a Camden Hills squad that earned its first Pine Tree Conference Class B postseason berth last fall.
“Bangor and Hampden got it going, and they wanted to be able to make it into a local football showcase,” said O’Connell. “They knew we were talking with Camden Hills, and they were good enough to ask us to come along.
“To be able to play another game on a Friday night on that field is a great opportunity for us,” said O’Connell.
This will be the first of two appearances at Alfond Stadium this season for the Crusaders, who also are scheduled to end their regular season against Orono High School at UMaine on Friday, Oct. 21.
The Bangor-Hampden Academy game will match schools that are familiar foes in most sports but are unfamiliar opponents on the gridiron.
Bangor is the two-time defending Pine Tree Conference Class A champion but will sport a different look with the graduation losses of such veterans as quarterback Joe Seccareccia and running back Josiah Hartley.
Hampden has been one of the more consistent teams in the PTC Class B ranks in recent years, finishing 8-2 last fall and reaching the conference semifinals.
“We’re playing a local rival in other sports that we haven’t had the chance to play in football because they’re in Class B, but they’re one of the top teams in Class B,” Hackett said. “Everything just lined up to make this a great thing to do.”
Playing on an artificial surface will be nothing new for Hampden Academy, which plays all its home games on turf at the Weatherbee Complex.
But playing Bangor in football will be something different for the Broncos.
“I think it’s great for us, great for the kids, just a super experience to play at the university,” said McCluskey. “I know our kids are all looking forward to it.
“As coaches we’re looking at it as not how we do against Bangor but are we progressively getting better, but it’s still an honor to play a team that’s been in the playoffs and has really been good in ‘A’ over the years. We’re glad to play them because it will show our kids something and hopefully we’ll play at a higher level.”
All four participants in Friday’s doubleheader will open their regular seasons on the weekend of Sept. 2-3, with Bangor at Brunswick, Hampden at Leavitt of Turner and John Bapst hosting Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln at Cameron Stadium in 7 p.m. starts that Friday and Camden Hills hosting Morse of Bath at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3.