Alex Leathers caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Carey to get his Lawrence High School football team off to a quick start during the Bulldogs’ earlier matchup against Bangor this fall.
That was more than two months ago.
If that duo is to hook up for another touchdown strike when top-ranked and undefeated Lawrence (10-0) hosts No. 2 Bangor (8-2) in the Eastern Maine Class A championship game at Keyes Field in Fairfield on Friday night, chances are it will come the other way around.
Perhaps the biggest change for either team since their first clash on Sept. 9 is the shift of Leathers from wide receiver to starting quarterback and Carey from quarterback to slot receiver and wingback.
It’s nothing Carey did wrong. He entered the season considered one of the top quarterbacks in the Pine Tree Conference and led the ‘Dogs through much of their schedule unbeaten.
But while an injury to his right shoulder ultimately left Carey unable to throw the football, it has not left him unable to play.
So Lawrence coach John Hersom simply turned to Plan 1A, his backup quarterback who had vied with Carey for the starting job at the outset of the 2010 season.
The result has been twofold — Lawrence has remained undefeated since Leathers became the first-team quarterback, and Carey has re-emerged as an offensive threat either running or catching the football.
“Alex has stepped in and done a real fine job at quarterback,” said Hersom. “He’d always continued to get reps in practice at quarterback as our first option in case something happened, and he’s enabled us to continue to run our entire offense. The kids really feel confident about his ability to run the offense.”
Leathers rushed for 101 yards and passed for 49 yards in Lawrence’s 25-16 victory over Messalonskee of Oakland in the final game of the regular season, then threw a 35-yard touchdown pass — to Carey — in the Bulldogs’ 28-13 Pine Tree Conference semifinal win over Messalonskee last weekend.
Carey also scored on an 11-yard run in Lawrence’s playoff win over Messalonskee.
“Carey’s one of the best players in the league either running the football or catching the football and on defense,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “He’s going to run by most people, and he’s bigger than a lot of people he’ll see in open space.”
One byproduct of the personnel moves within the Lawrence offense, Hackett added, is that the Bulldogs are even more focused on the run than they were early in the season. Carey, Leathers, Anthony Sementelli and the PTC’s leading rusher, Shaun Carroll, are all capable of making big plays.
“I think they’re doing what Lawrence does,” said Hackett. “They’re running more power, traps, counter and run option. They’re still very efficient passing, they just don’t seem to be passing as much.”
Carroll, who rushed for 229 yards and four touchdowns during Lawrence’s regular-season win at Bangor, had 192 rushing yards — including an 82-yard touchdown — against Messalonskee last week.
That’s despite Carroll’s continuing recuperation from a groin injury.
“Shaun was able to carry the ball multiple times in our playoff game, and he seemed to hold up physically pretty well,” said Hersom, who also hopes to use Carroll as cornerback on defense Friday night for the first time since midway through the season.
THE HOMEFIELD EDGE
Lawrence enters Friday’s 7 p.m. contest with five straight wins over Bangor at Keyes Field, including postseason victories in the 2006 and 2007 Eastern Maine finals. Bangor’s last win at Fairfield was a 24-14 decision in 2004. Since then, Lawrence has won eight of the last nine meetings overall between the teams.
BALL SECURITY BANGOR KEY
One key to Bangor’s success this fall has been its advantage in the turnover battle. The Rams are plus-22 in turnover ratio through 10 games, having lost seven fumbles and thrown four pass interceptions on offense while recovering 23 fumbles and pulling in 10 interceptions.
Bangor had four of the PTC’s six leaders in fumble recoveries during the regular season, with Justin Scripture and Xavier Lewis topping the conference with five recoveries each.
CHEVERUS BACK IN WM FINAL
Top-ranked and undefeated Cheverus of Portland, the defending state Class A champion, hosts No. 2 Thornton Academy of Saco in Saturday’s Western “A” final at 12:30 p.m. Cheverus, 10-0 this year, is riding a 22-game winning streak while Thornton has won eight straight games since a 20-16 loss at South Portland during Week 2 of the regular season.