All 76 high school football teams in Maine will be tied for first place as the sun rises Friday.
But all that will begin to change once night falls as regular-season play begins around the state with teams from Kittery to Millinocket and from Bethel to Calais in pursuit of their ultimate goal, to play for a state championship at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland come Nov. 19.
Here’s one thought as to who might represent Eastern Maine in those final games.
Class A: This may be one of the more balanced races for the top spot in many years, with two-time defending champion Bangor, Lewiston, Lawrence of Fairfield and Brunswick all being given plenty of preseason respect and Messalonskee of Oakland and Edward Little of Auburn also considered challengers for the four available playoff berths.
Bangor will sport a different look with recent stars Joe Seccareccia and Josiah Hartley among the graduated and just 11 seniors on the roster. But it’s a roster with considerable promise, with several potential game-breakers working behind a line with a fair share of experience.
Lewiston is the most veteran team of the bunch with eight starters back on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and the Blue Devils should be the most motivated after losing to Bangor in the final minutes of the Eastern Maine final when they came up short on a controversial fourth-and-1 play from its own 10 yard line.
Lawrence may have the league’s best all-around player in junior quarterback Spencer Carey as well as a solid supporting cast in its bid for its first regional crown since 2007.
And Brunswick, featuring tailback Dylan Walton, has knocked Lawrence out of the playoffs each of the last two years and has a chance to build momentum immediately when it hosts Bangor in its season opener.
The pick: Lewiston.
Class B: Another tough choice here, with two-time defending champion Leavitt of Turner Center to be challenged by Mt. Blue of Farmington, newly down from the Class A ranks after reaching the Eastern Maine semifinals in that division a year ago.
Both those teams have talented backfield performers, particularly Leavitt quarterback Jordan Hersom, but both will be introducing new starters along the line of scrimmage.
Gardiner also will contend behind the game-breaking ability of running back Alonzo Connor, while Hampden Academy has established itself as a consistent top-four team in recent years.
Belfast, buoyed by a trip to the Eastern Maine semifinals a year ago, is a darkhorse, and how a resurgent Old Town squad will fare with its double-wing attack after moving up from Class C this fall will be another storyline to watch.
The pick: Mt. Blue.
Class C: Foxcroft Academy had a rare average season for itself a year ago, but rallied late to qualify for the LTC playoffs and then advanced to the semifinals where it dropped a one-point decision to eventual Eastern Maine champion Stearns of Millinocket.
The Ponies return a deep and more experienced roster, and are accustomed to high expectations.
So, too, are the John Bapst Crusaders, who have made four consecutive trips to the LTC championship game. Bapst has arguably the conference’s best player in senior end Max Andrews and plan to get the ball to him more often this fall both as a receiver and a rusher.
Bucksport also has an experienced backfield but like Bapst will be redeveloping along the line of scrimmage.
The pick: Foxcroft Academy.