BANGOR, Maine — As the Bangor High School football team faced its initial preseason test a year ago, new quarterback Carl Farnham admitted to a sense of trepidation.
“I was just thinking about that first scrimmage, and how last year at that time I was a little scared,” said Carl Farnham, now a senior and the Rams’ starting signal caller for the second year.
“But this year with the seniors that we have I had more confidence and the ability to have more fun during that same scrimmage. That experience will help us in getting to our goal of winning a state championship.”
Bangor, an Eastern Maine Class A finalist last fall after winning the regional title each of the previous two years, is matter-of-fact about voicing that ultimate football goal because it rarely changes from year to year.
“Last year we definitely were really close,” said senior wide receiver and free safety Matt Cosgrove. “But this year we’re all seniors now, we’ve all got a lot of experience now. We’re ready to go, we’re ready to win. We’re ready to win the gold ball.”
Bangor has an arsenal of experienced backs and receivers to challenge defending Pine Tree Conference champion Lawrence of Fairfield for regional supremacy.
“The seniors are further along,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “Every one of those kids are playing better than they played last year. They’re playing with more spirit, they’re playing with more focus. Now it’s their team.”
Farnham is both a passing and running threat at quarterback, though the bulk of the rushing chores will fall to the tandem of seniors Cody Chapman — a 1,000-yard rusher in 2011 — and Zeb Tuell as fronted by senior fullback Cain Corkum.
Cosgrove has stepped up as a first-year starter at split end, while junior Nick Ashey plays tight end and Logan Lanham provides an additional target either at split end or wingback.
“No one’s had better hands here than Matt Cosgrove since I’ve been coaching,” said Hackett. “I know I’ve told his father [University of Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove] that he’s got college hands. He just snatches balls away from people.”
Senior tackle Greg Duff and senior guard Brandon Vang anchor the Rams’ offensive front, which also includes center Brendan Moore, tackle Garrett Strout and guard Cameron Dickson.
“We have three starters back this year so that’s a good start, and Garrett Strout and Cameron Dickson have stepped up great,” said Duff. “It all starts in practice, not taking a play off and working hard every second.”
Duff, Vang and Strout will provide the interior front-line presence in Bangor’s 5-2 defensive alignment, with Ashey and Corkum at end and Chapman and Greg Young at linebacker.
Farnham, Ben Dorr and Alex Welch will play cornerback, with Cosgrove, Tuell and Logan Lanham at safety.
“If we keep developing and keep going defensively, I think we have the potential to be real good,” said Hackett. “We’re a little stockier and a little shorter than we’ve been up front, but also a little more athletic. I hopes that works to our favor.”
Bangor, 8-3 a year ago, has an additional asset in Farnham’s kicking ability, both on extra points and field goals and through long kickoffs that often produce a field-position advantage for the Rams.
“Carl was good at it last year, too,” said Hackett. “There’s a comfort level there because there’s no one better kicking the ball than we are right now. They might be as good, but they’re not better. It’s a huge weapon.”
Brunswick beat Bangor in last Friday night’s season opener 36-28 and the Rams face another big game Friday night against Lawrence in Fairfield.
The Rams have an awareness that while it’s crucial not to get off to a slow start given that just four of the PTC A’s 10 teams qualify for postseason play, every game is important.
“I learned last year to not take any teams lightly,” said Chapman. “Every team is a challenge, and at the beginning of each week we’re 0-0. It’s a new start every week.”
2011 record: 8-3, Eastern Maine Class A finalist
Head coach: Mark Hackett, 12th year
Key players: Cody Chapman, Sr., FB-LB, Capt.; Zeb Tuell, Sr., HB-SS, Capt.; Carl Farnham, Sr., QB-CB-PK-P, Capt.; Matt Cosgrove, Sr., SE-FS, Capt.; Greg Duff, Sr., RT-NG, Capt.; Cain Corkum, Sr., FB-DE, Capt.; Nick Ashey, Jr., TE-DE; Brandon Vang, Sr., RG-DT
Outlook: Bangor will remain one of the top teams in the Pine Tree Conference, led by a bevy of backs and receivers, including several back for their second season as starters on offense and defense. That group is led by Chapman and Tuell, two of the conference’s top running backs, and Farnham, who not only anchors the offensive backfield but is a top-tier kicker. Whether the Rams can challenge for a state title will depend on the team’s development on defense.