FAIRFIELD, Maine — Keyes Field has an aura fairly unique to Maine high school football, its modest bleacher space leaving most fans content to ring the playing surface three or four rows deep.
It’s been a tough place for opposing teams to win — not since a 24-14 victory in 2004, for example, has Bangor had an enjoyable ride back up Interstate 95 after a skirmish on the Bulldogs’ home turf.
Now the two programs that have won five of the last six Eastern Maine Class A championships meet again Friday night, each with a sense of urgency.
Lawrence’s urgency is more big picture, with 21 seniors back from last year’s team that defeated Bangor 40-14 in the regional final before falling to Cheverus of Portland 49-27 in the state final.
Those seniors now have one final chance to capture the gold ball, which would be the school’s first since 2006.
“They were there [the state final] last year and didn’t like the outcome,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, whose team most recently played in the state final in 2009 and 2010. “We know how they feel, we’ve been there. They’ve got a determination to get back there and give it another shot.”
For Bangor, the urgency is more immediate, as the Rams are coming off a 36-28 loss to Brunswick in its season opener as Dragons’ running back Jared Jensen raced through the Rams’ defense for 428 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
With just four of the PTC Class A’s 10 teams qualifying for the playoffs, a second-straight loss would leave Bangor with a much smaller margin for error as it approaches the rest of its season.
“We’ve got a great group of kids,” said Hackett. “They know their backs are against the wall.”
Bangor Rams (0-1) at Lawrence Bulldogs (1-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Keyes Field, Fairfield: Both teams have plenty of offensive playmakers, meaning this game may come down to which team comes up biggest defensively.
Lawrence is led by senior quarterback-safety Spencer Carey, healthy this year after a shoulder injury last fall forced him to switch from quarterback to receiver on offense last fall.
“He’s a force on offense and defense,” said Hackett.
Running backs Josh Doolan and Anthony Sementelli each rushed for two touchdowns in Lawrence’s 39-16 win at Edward Little of Auburn last Saturday, a game the Bulldogs led 39-0 through three quarters.
Doolan, a linebacker on defense, also returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown.
Bangor got a 241-yard, two-touchdown effort from senior running back Cody Chapman against Brunswick as well as a 9-of-16 passing performance from senior quarterback Carl Farnham, and the Rams likely will need a balanced attack to find success against an aggressive Lawrence defense.
Lawrence has won nine of the last 10 meetings between these teams since the start of the 2005 season, with Bangor’s 28-21 win at Cameron Stadium in 2009 the lone exception.
Recent Bangor-Lawrence games generally have required four touchdowns to win, with the teams combining for an average of 47.1 points over their last seven meetings.
“A lot of it will come down to key penalties or a key turnover, and taking advantage of those opportunities,” said Hackett.
Brewer Witches (0-1) at Old Town Coyotes (0-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Victory Field: Brewer used a high-scoring win over Old Town at home last fall as the start of a six-game winning streak that propelled coach Don Farnham’s club to a top-four finish in the PTC Class B standings and a first-round home playoff game.
Brewer’s defense yielded 55 points in a season-opening loss last weekend to Mt. Blue, one of the preseason favorites in the division, though the Witches were able to move the ball offensively against the Cougars with their “pistol” formation.
Old Town is coming off a shutout loss to Madison-Carrabec last week as the Coyotes adjust to a new offense being installed by new head coach Nick Arthers. That effort also has been hampered by the loss due to a preseason shoulder injury of senior Cam Archer, a returning starter at quarterback.
Bucksport Golden Bucks (1-0) at Ellsworth-Sumner Eagles (0-1), 7 p.m. Friday, at Ellsworth: Friday night lights come to the brand new Ellsworth-Sumner football program, though the game itself figures to be a monumental challenge.
The Eagles, which lost at Foxcroft Academy in their opener, gets to face the defending LTC Class C champions for their initial home game of the season.
Bucksport got a strong debut from quarterback Matt Stewart in its Week 1 win against Washington Academy of East Machias, as the sophomore completed 11 of 12 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
John Bapst Crusaders (1-0) at Mount View Mustangs (0-1), 1 p.m. Saturday, at Thorndike: After five years of playing home games on the road, Mount View will host its first on-campus home contest.
Coach Jack Brady’s club, rebuilding after graduating 14 seniors from last year’s playoff team, is coming off a 55-20 loss at Stearns of Millinocket last week despite three touchdowns and more than 200 rushing yards from running back Will Nunn.
Junior Austin Spencer made a successful debut as John Bapst’s starting quarterback in Week 1, completing 9 of 18 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown and rushing for a team-high 57 yards as the Crusaders defeated Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln 20-0.
Oceanside Mariners (1-0) at Waterville Purple Panthers (1-0), 1 p.m. Saturday, Drummond Field: Both teams are coming off proficient offensive performances in their Week 1 victories.
Waterville earned a 36-14 road victory at Mount Desert Island, with junior quarterback Aiden Fitzgerald throwing three touchdown passes and Cam Thomas rushing for two scores.
Oceanside topped Nokomis of Newport 34-27, with senior quarterback Sam Meklin passing for four touchdowns and rushing for a fifth as the Mariners opened their season with a victory for the second-straight year.