ORONO, Maine — The Orono and John Bapst of Bangor football teams will play their LTC Class C regular-season finale at the University of Maine’s Alfond Stadium this week, but the teams will face a bit of a squeeze play in their preparation for the contest.
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday night, marking the first time in recent history a conference game has been scheduled for a Thursday.
Three previous meetings between the rivals at Alfond Stadium over the last two years were played on Friday nights, but this year the University of Maine men’s hockey team is scheduled to host St. Lawrence both Friday and Saturday nights while the Black Bears’ football team will play its annual homecoming game against the University of New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon.
That busy schedule left Thursday night as the only option for scheduling what has become a shared “Senior Night” game between the two high school foes, who enter the game with identical 6-1 records.
“We’ve played Orono up there the last two years, and this is something we’ve talked a lot about wanting to keep going,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “And the university has been great about trying to accommodate us.”
Both teams played last Friday night, with John Bapst defeating Ellsworth-Sumner and Orono topping Stearns of Millinocket.
But with the game against each other now a day earlier than in previous years, Saturday marked the start of the preparation process for the game rather than typically being a day off for the players and coaches.
And while Sunday was a mandated day off for both teams, the rest of the game prep is being squeezed into three days — with Monday’s schedule also including a junior varsity contest for each program.
“I think we’re both feeling a little rushed,” said Orono coach Bob Sinclair, “but we’ll be OK.”
John Bapst could have been rushed even further but for a change in the schedule during the off-season. The Crusaders originally were scheduled to play at Calais-Woodland last weekend, and that facility lacked lights so the game would have been played on Saturday afternoon.
But Calais-Woodland suspended its program last spring and was replaced on the schedule by Ellsworth-Sumner, a team with a lighted field. John Bapst was able to play the Eagles last Friday night and as a result be on the same schedule for this week as Orono.
The short week of practices is somewhat similar to the scenario all teams statewide face during preseason, when teams play their first scrimmage on Monday of the second week of practice and then play their exhibition game just three or four days later on the following Friday or Saturday.
“The difference is that this game counts and has playoff seeding implications for both teams,” said O’Connell.
John Bapst currently ranks first in the LTC Crabtree point ratings, just ahead of Orono and Foxcroft Academy, which are tied for second.
The winner of the John Bapst-Orono game will finish no worse than second in the standings entering postseason play next week, while the loser will finish third under most scenarios and would have to play on the road in the regional semifinals should it advance that far.
“It should be a good game,” said Sinclair. “There aren’t a lot of secrets at this point of the season. John Bapst wants to be balanced with the run and the throw, and we’ll try to establish our run game first and if the pass is there we’ll take it.”
Orono and John Bapst began playing their mutual regular-season finale at UMaine in 2010 when they met in the first high school football game played on the Orono campus since South Portland defeated Oxford Hills 24-10 in the 1999 Class A state championship game.
John Bapst won the 2010 meeting 35-22, but Orono defeated the Crusaders twice at UMaine last fall, 46-21 during the regular season and 24-14 two weeks later in their LTC semifinal.
Both teams are gladly trading the compacted preparation time this year for the chance to play each other again at the state’s lone Division I college football facility.
“Bapst is a big rival for us in our geographic area,” said Sinclair. “It’s very intense, but it’s also a very respectful rivalry, and to be able to play the game at UMaine at their facility is something the kids get really excited about.”
“It’s a great showcase for high school football, and being the only game in town that night makes it feel even bigger,” added O’Connell. “Plus it’s a great venue, and the university has been great in helping us and Orono be able to make this happen.”
The Orono football team will be without one of its key players for Thursday night’s LTC Class C regular-season in junior fullback and linebacker Cameron Mowrer, who suffered a grade 2 concussion during the Red Riots’ 52-12 win last Friday night at Stearns of Millinocket.
Mowrer suffered the injury during a collision with a Stearns player while playing defense on the final play of the first half, according to Sinclair.
Mowrer ultimately spent the night at Millinocket Regional Hospital.
According to the American Academy of Neurology, concussions are graded on a scale of 1-3 depending on symptoms. Players who suffer a grade 2 concussion lose consciousness for less than five minutes or exhibit posttraumatic amnesia for 30 minutes to 24 hours. The academy suggests they may return to play after one week of being asymptomatic.
Sinclair said Mowrer is definitely out for Thursday’s game and likely won’t be available for Orono’s first-round playoff game the following weekend.
“We’re not sure when we’re going to get him back,” said Sinclair. “That’s up to the physicians.”
While Cheverus of Portland was gaining all the media attention last weekend with its Class A state record-tying 28-14 victory at previously unbeaten Thornton Academy of Saco, it wasn’t the only program to earn a milestone win.
Telstar of Bethel scored its first varsity football win since 1982 on Friday night with a 38-0 victory over Sacopee Valley at South Hiram.
Telstar, with an enrollment of 243 students as of April 1, 2012, reinstated varsity football last year after a 31-year hiatus. The Rebels went winless in eight games last fall and were 0-6 in Western Maine Class C this year in before earning its first victory.
Sacopee Valley, which joined the varsity ranks in 2009, is still in search of its first win at that level.
Telstar had a successful previous varsity football run in Class C from 1968 to 1981, with back-to-back state championships in 1972 and 1973 to go with a 21-game winning streak. The Rebels’ overall record during that span was 69-52-4.
A youth football program was restarted in the area nine years ago, followed soon after by a junior varsity-level high school program. That team went 8-0 in 2010 before Telstar rejoined the varsity ranks.