Week 7 of the high school football season marks the start of the regular-season’s home stretch, with teams having either two or three more games to qualify for the playoffs or gain the much-desired home field advantage.
And with that reality comes a corresponding increase in the sense of urgency, particularly for teams needing late-season wins to ensure their postseason futures.
One team in that situation is Lewiston, 3-3 coming into Friday night’s Pine Tree Conference Class A clash against Bangor.
The Blue Devils battled Bangor until the final seconds of the 2010 Eastern Maine Class A championship game before being stopped short on a fourth-and-1 play from their own 10-yard line as the Rams held on for a 28-25 victory.
This regular-season rematch may mean more to Lewiston than it does to 5-1 Bangor in terms of sheer playoff survival, but the Rams likely will face their first true test in more than a month after putting together a four-game winning streak in which they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined 188-59.
“It’s a must-win for them,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “But this is a playoff game for us, too. We win and we’re in the playoffs, but if we lose we’re fighting for our lives the last two weeks.”
LEWISTON Blue Devils (3-3) at Bangor Rams (5-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Cameron Stadium: Lewiston currently is tied for fifth place in the PTC Class A standings with Skowhegan, trailing 6-0 Lawrence of Fairfield, 5-1 Bangor and Brunswick and 4-2 Messalonskee of Oakland, and those standings indicate that the Blue Devils have no more margin for error if they are to qualify for the four-team playoff field,
The Blue Devils, coming off a 14-0 loss to Lawrence last weekend that ended their three-game winning streak, feature tailback Jeff Turcotte, who has rushed for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“He’s very aggressive and very fast,” said Hackett. “He may be the best combination of physicality and quickness in the league.”
For Bangor, Friday’s game marks the start of a final three-game stretch against fellow playoff contenders. The Rams trek to Messalonskee next Friday before closing out their regular season at home against Skowhegan in two weeks.
“All of the teams we have left are in the playoff hunt, so we can determine our own destiny,” said Hackett.
WATERVILLE Purple Panthers (4-2) at Brewer Witches (5-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Doyle Field: Brewer’s five-game winning streak faces a formidable challenge against a Waterville team currently seeded fourth in the PTC Class B ranks despite facing the toughest schedule in the 14-team league — its opponents have a combined 31-17 record.
Fifth-ranked Brewer’s opponents, by contrast, are a combined 19-29, but the Witches are nevertheless bolstered by the program’s most successful run since 2005.
“The kids are playing with some confidence,” said Brewer coach Don Farnham. “But I think they’re also humble, because they’ve been on the other side of this, too.”
This could be a battle of Brewer’s team quickness against Waterville’s size. Brewer features a wide-open attack led by quarterback Chris Miller, running backs Dillon Smith and Brody Valley and wideout Anthony Jackson.
Waterville counters with a wing-T attack led by running backs J.T. Whitten and Racean Wood.
“They’re gigantic,” said Farnham of the Purpla Panthers. “Their front line is big, their running backs are big, and their physicalness is something we need to step up against.
“We will have to be in athletic mode. We’ve got some good athletes with quickness and speed, and we’ll want to open up the field to take advantage of that.”
HAMPDEN Academy Broncos (4-2) at Mount Desert Island Trojans (3-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Bar Harbor: This has developed into one of the better under-the-radar rivalries in the PTC Class B ranks in recent years, with home-field advantage often one of the determining factors.
Both teams feature a talented rushing duo, Hampden with Nick Stevens and Logan Steward and MDI with Elias Burne and Jayson Burke — all four went over 100 yards in victories last weekend, with Steward amassing 229 yards and three touchdowns.
Hampden, currently sixth in the Crabtree point ratings, needs a win to enhance its hopes of hosting a first-round playoff game. MDI, currently holding the eighth and final playoff berth in the division, could use a victory to enhance its own postseason aspirations.
BUCKSPORT Golden Bucks (6-0) at Foxcroft Academy Ponies (4-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Oakes Field, Dover-Foxcroft: The game of the night in the Class C LTC features the unbeaten Golden Bucks against a Foxcroft team seeking to rebound from a two-game losing streak.
Bucksport has won each of its games by double digits, and has yielded an average of just 7.8 points per game defensively. Quarterback Mike Cummings and running backs Shawn Smith and Chris Powell have paced the Golden Bucks offense.
The Golden Bucks would likely clinch the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Eastern C playoffs with a victory.
Foxcroft bounced back from a 58-14 loss at Orono in Week 5 with a competitive battle last weekend against John Bapst of Bangor before dropping a 13-12 decision in the final minutes.
The Ponies, while secure of a playoff berth, would like to regain some positive momentum heading into postseason play, something a victory over Bucksport surely would provide.
WASHINGTON Academy Raiders (2-4) at Mount View Mustangs (4-2), 1 p.m. Saturday, Larrabee Field, Knox: Two of the newer programs in Eastern Maine have separate goals on the line in this LTC matchup.
Mount View, already the winner of more games this season than it had won in its previous four years of varsity play, now has its eyes on a possible home playoff game if things break right in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Mustangs feature an offense led by quarterback Jalen Babin and tailback Will Nunn that has produced in excess of 300 rushing yards per game.
The first-year varsity Washington Academy program is riding a dose of midseason momentum, having rebounded from an 0-4 start to establish its own playoff hopes after back-to-back victories over Calais-Woodland and Dexter. The Raiders have averaged 42 points in their two wins, but will need to come up big defensively against a veteran Mount View squad.