As players and coaches from surviving high school football teams around the state practiced this week, there’s been a different air to the proceedings, an urgency borne not of what has been accomplished but what’s now at stake.
It’s playoff time, and only the victors advance.
“Everything is a little crisper, everyone pays a little more attention because it is do or die,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, whose team hosts Lewiston in one of eight Eastern Maine quarterfinals this weekend. “The kids get it.”
No. 5 Lewiston (3-5) at No. 4 Bangor (4-4), 2 p.m. Saturday: These teams played to a wild finish in Week 7, with Bangor taking the lead in the final minute only to have Lewiston rally for a last-second 31-29 win.
“We felt like we ran out of time,” said Hackett. “They were ahead most of the way, we had a great comeback and were emotionally high, and they took it away from us.
“Our motivation level this week is very high,” he said.
Bangor defeated Oxford Hills of South Paris 27-6 last week as senior halfback Logan Lanham (208 carries, 911 yards) rushed for 245 yards, while Lewiston outscored Edward Little of Auburn 34-26.
Bangor will have to be wary of Lewiston big-play maker Quintarian Brown, and the Blue Devils also have one of Eastern A’s top quarterbacks in Eddie Emerson.
No. 6 Edward Little (3-5) at No. 3 Windham (4-4), 7 p.m. Friday: Windham has lost four of its last five after a 3-0 start that included a 23-12 Week 2 win over Edward Little. The Eagles feature one of the division’s top running backs in Liam Simpson, while quarterback Tyler Johnson ranks second in passing yardage.
Edward Little moved into playoff position with two straight victories before falling to Lewiston last weekend. The Red Eddies are led by quarterback Ian Milekis, who also leads the team in rushing.
No. 6 Hampden Academy (5-3) vs. No. 3 Messalonskee (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Oakland: Messalonskee pulled out a 21-14 victory in their earlier meeting at Hampden on Corey McKenzie’s 4-yard touchdown run with 55.6 seconds remaining.
The Eagles closed out their regular season with three victories — knocking off previously unbeaten Brunswick before topping Hampden and rebuilding Lawrence of Fairfield.
Hampden ended a two-game skid with a 42-6 win over Brewer last week.
No. 5 Skowhegan (4-4) at No. 4 Mt. Blue (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday, at Farmington: Mt. Blue held off Skowhegan 42-40 last Friday, and another high-scoring affair likely is in order.
Mt. Blue, the defending Class B state champion, is averaging 38.0 points per game with an offense guided by quarterback Andrew Pratt. Skowhegan is averaging 34.3 points per contest as led by quarterback Adam Clukey and running back Kaleb Brown.
No. 6 Old Town (4-4) vs. No. 3 Mount Desert Island (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday, at Bar Harbor: These teams are meeting for the second straight week after Mount Desert Island closed out the regular season with a 42-22 win at Old Town.
The Trojans have been the surprise of Eastern Maine Class C this fall, with notable victories over defending state champion Foxcroft Academy and 2012 Eastern B finalist Waterville as part of their current three-game winning streak.
MDI features Eastern C’s top rusher in Teagan Candage (124 carries, 1,184 yards).
Old Town, 1-7 a year ago, has made significant progress under second-year coach Nick Arthers, with Braden Upshaw and Cody Whitmore as its chief offensive threats.
No. 5 Belfast (5-3) vs. No. 4 Foxcroft Academy (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday, at Dover-Foxcroft: Foxcroft rallied from a 15-point second-quarter deficit for a 28-27 victory over the Lions in Week 3.
Foxcroft halted a three-game losing streak with a last-second 8-6 victory at Nokomis of Newport last Saturday. The Ponies played that game without injured quarterback Hunter Law and fullback Corey Bjornson but hope to have both back for postseason play.
Belfast has won its last four games after a 1-3 start, including a 39-8 victory over Camden Hills of Rockport last weekend.
No. 6 Washington Academy (3-5) at No. 3 Mattanawcook Academy (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday, at Lincoln: Mattanawcook used a 32-0 victory Week 1 win over WA as the springboard to a comeback season under new head coach Billy McCarthy.
MA has matched its win total of the previous three seasons combined, though it is coming off a 23-6 loss at No. 1 Bucksport last weekend.
The Lynx are led by senior quarterback Trysten Pelkey (897 rushing yards, 648 passing yards) and sophomore Scott Jipson (848 rushing yards).
WA, which edged Mount View of Thorndike 35-33 last Saturday to earn the final playoff berth, blends the running of Ellic Smith (612 yards) with the passing of quarterback Micah McBrine (933 passing yards, 12 TDs) to Fred MacLean (688 receiving yards, five TDs).
No. 5 Dexter Tigers (3-5) at No. 4 Orono Red Riots (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday: Orono cruised to a 30-8 victory over Dexter in Week 6.
The Red Riots have won three straight games and four of their last five with a ground-oriented attack led by senior Cameron Mowrer (965 yards, nine TDs).
Dexter has dropped its last three games to Orono, Mattanawcook Academy and No. 2 seed Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, teams with a combined 19-5 record. Led by quarterback Trevor Fogarty (928 passing yards, 10 TDs), the Tigers averaged 32.5 points in their last two games.