June 25, 2018
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HS football’s opening night marked by meaningful matchups; Bangor game moved to Husson

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Bangor’s Zeb Tuell (24) outruns Brunswick’s Jordan Rysdam (8) and Garrett Erb (33) during last season’s PTC Class A semifinal at Cameron Stadium in Bangor. Bangor won 42-14. The two teams meet again at 7 p.m. Friday when they open the season at Cameron Stadium.
By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Forget the fact it’s just the start of a new high school football season in Maine, because Week 1 of the schedule presents several encounters that may reverberate well into autumn, perhaps to when the first snowflakes fall.

Among the more noteworthy of those opening-week clashes, Bangor hosts Brunswick in a rematch of last year’s Pine Tree Conference Class A semifinal while Hampden Academy hosts three-time defending PTC Class B champion Leavitt of Turner Center in a rematch of their 2011 semifinal.

The Bangor game has been moved to Husson University’s Winkin Complex due to a problem with Cameron Stadium’s lights.

Brunswick Dragons at Bangor Rams, 7 p.m. Friday, Winkin Complex, Husson University: Bangor pulled off a major-league escape job in their Week 1 meeting last season, capitalizing on fumbles by the Dragons to salvage a 21-20 victory despite being outgained by 195 total yards.

Their postseason meeting wasn’t nearly as close, with Bangor earning a 42-14 victory at home to advance to the Eastern Maine Class A final.

But with a road test at defending PTC champion Lawrence of Fairfield looming just a week away, Bangor coach Mark Hackett knows there’s nothing to be taken for granted against a Brunswick program that has made three straight trips to the conference semifinals.

“I like our schedule, but to play Brunswick first, that’s a must-win for us,” said Hackett. “They’re a very, very good football program, and then we play Lawrence in the second game and you don’t want to lose to Brunswick and then have to go there and play. You just don’t want to be there.

“Everyone wants to talk about our natural rival, but Brunswick’s the first team we play and that’s all we’re looking toward.”

Accentuating the need to get off to a strong start is the fact that just four of the PTC Class A’s 10 teams qualify for postseason play.

Just last year, Lewiston — a 2010 conference finalist — got off to an 0-2 start and missed the playoffs despite finishing at 5-4.

“One thing our guys saw last year was that one team that thought it was pretty good, I’m not going to say who it was, got off to a bad start and didn’t make the playoffs,” said Hackett. “We know that was a highly qualified team last year, but it got off to a bad start and didn’t get a chance to finish the way it wanted. We don’t want to be that team this year.”

Leavitt Hornets at Hampden Academy Broncos, 7 p.m. Friday, Weatherbee Complex: A Hampden team with high expectations couldn’t face a bigger challenge in its 2012 debut.

“I always ask who makes the schedule because we seem to play Leavitt in the first game every year,” said eighth-year Hampden head coach Harry McCluskey. “But playing a tough team early is not a bad thing, because you find out how good you are and what you need to work on.”

Leavitt has a 33-game conference winning streak, including a victory over Hampden in Week 1 last year and a 47-22 win over the Broncos in the conference semifinals.

Hampden returns most of its roster from a year ago, including senior running back Logan Steward, who scored two touchdowns in the Broncos’ exhibition game against Bangor last week.

Leavitt will turn to Tyler Chicoine — one of 22 juniors on coach Mike Hathaway’s roster — at quarterback after last year’s Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Jordan Hersom graduated. Another junior, Josh Faunce, takes over at tailback.

“They’re a little different this year,” said McCluskey. “They have a running option quarterback this year more than a throwing quarterback, but he’s pretty good. They run a lot of the same plays they did before, but I’m sure anything new we didn’t see [during Leavitt’s preseason game].”

McCluskey also is aware of the playoff implications of this Week 1 encounter.

“If both of us have the kind of year we both had last year, it could mean who’s home for the playoffs,” said McCluskey. “There’s no doubt if we both have good years that we’ll see each other again.”

Mt. Blue Cougars at Brewer Witches, 7 p.m. Friday, Doyle Field: This game matches two more PTC Class B playoff teams from a year ago.

Mt. Blue fell 22-21 in double overtime to Leavitt in the PTC championship game, while Brewer lost to Hampden on a last-second touchdown in its quarterfinal.

Both teams run spread offenses that feature a mix of the pass and run. Brewer returns senior Chris Miller at quarterback for the second straight year, while Mt. Blue is led by senior quarterback Jordan Whitney, who passed for 1,905 yards and 25 touchdowns last fall.

Waterville Purple Panthers at Mount Desert Island Trojans, 7 p.m. Friday, Bar Harbor: Yet another Week 1 matchup of 2011 PTC Class B playoff teams, MDI would like nothing better than to erase the memory of last year’s season-opening 28-3 loss at Waterville.

MDI graduated virtually all of its backfield from a year ago, so coach Mark Shields’ club will rely on size and strength along the line of scrimmage to make life easier for the newcomers to the skill positions.

Waterville returns starting quarterback Aiden Fitzgerald for a second year, and Racean Wood is back at running back for the Purple Panthers, who like MDI, were knocked out in the conference quarterfinals a year ago.

Ellsworth-Sumner Eagles at Foxcroft Academy Ponies, 7 p.m. Friday, Oakes Field: Ellsworth-Sumner debuts a varsity football team for the first time since Ellsworth fielded a team during the 1950s, but coach Duane Crawford’s club gets no break from the schedule maker as their clash with tradition-laden Foxcroft Academy is followed by its home opener against defending conference champion Bucksport on Sept. 7.

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