BUCKSPORT, Maine — The children of two proud milltowns will battle for Little Ten Conference football supremacy Saturday afternoon when Bucksport hosts Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln at Carmichael Field.
“It’s going to be a great environment,” said Bucksport coach Joel Sankey. “There’s going to be a big crowd and it will be a lot of fun.”
That Class D final is one of four Eastern Maine championship games in the expanded four-class format instituted by the Maine Principals’ Association this fall for the first time since 1986.
Class D: No. 3 Mattanawcook Academy (9-1) at No. 1 Bucksport (9-0), 1 p.m. Saturday: Bucksport was the preseason choice to represent the LTC in the state game and has done nothing to diminish that respect, beating back-to-back undefeated teams in No. 2 Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield and MA to close out the regular season before scoring a come-from-behind 17-14 semifinal win over No. 4 Orono last weekend.
Mattanawcook was barely on the postseason radar as preseason practices began after winning just seven games during the last three years combined. But led by first-year head coach Bill McCarthy, the Lynx got off to a quick start and has parlayed that momentum into a nine-win campaign to date that includes a come-from-behind 22-21 quarterfinal survival of No. 6 Washington Academy of East Machias and a 34-6 win at MCI last weekend.
Bucksport fields a balanced attack directed by junior quarterback Matthew Stewart, a 1,000-yard passer, along senior wideout Josh Gray and junior running back Jack Cyr.
MA’s catalysts include senior quarterback Trysten Pelkey, who has more than 2,000 combined rushing and passing yards this fall, and sophomore halfback Scott Jipson, a 900-yard rusher.
Bucksport is seeking its second LTC crown in the last three years, while MA is after its first title since 1999.
These teams last met Oct. 25, with Bucksport jumping out to a big lead en route to a 23-6 victory that determined the LTC’s top seed.
“We were very fortunate, we got off to a quick start,” Sankey said. “They shut us out the second half, they’re a good football team.”
The Golden Bucks took a 23-0 lead with 8:53 left in the first half. Bucksport did not score again, but a defense led by linebacker Nic Bishop and tackle KP Hilaire limited MA to a second-quarter scoring run by Pelkey.
“We’ve got to get off to a better start,” McCarthy said. “The last trip to Bucksport we kind of staggered out of the gates and had a couple of costly turnovers and a safety. We’ve got to get out to a good start, match the intensity, not be overwhelmed by the moment and be ready to go from the get-go.”
Class A: No. 2 Portland (8-1) at No. 1 Cheverus (9-0), 12:30 p.m. Saturday: Cheverus defeated Portland 35-25 in their mutual season opener, and both clubs have gone on to become offensive juggernauts, with Cheverus averaging 51.0 points per game and Portland at 45.3 ppg. Cheverus — a winner of 43 of its last 44 outings — features junior running back Joe Fitzpatrick, who rushed for 254 yards and five touchdowns in the Stags’ 37-0 semifinal win over No. 4 Bangor. Fitzpatrick has 1,698 yards and 29 touchdowns on 170 carries for the season. Portland counters with senior Justin Zukowski, who scored five TDs in the Bulldogs’ 55-7 victory over No. 3 Windham last week. Zukowski has 1,650 yards and 24 touchdowns on 192 rushes this fall.
Class B: No. 2 Cony (7-2) at No. 1 Brunswick (7-2), 7 p.m. Friday: Brunswick’s punishing ground game clashes with Cony’s aerial assault for the second time this season. Brunswick won 54-38 during Week 3 of the regular season by amassing 575 total yards to overcome the 36-of-58, 444-yard passing effort of Cony quarterback Ben Lucas. Cony, a finalist in Eastern A last year after edging Brunswick 22-21 in the semifinals, defeated No. 3 Messalonskee of Oakland 41-15 last weekend as Lucas — who has more than 7,000 career passing yards — completed 20 of 34 attempts for 301 yards and three TDs. Brunswick outscored No. 5 Skowhegan 42-28 in its semifinal as Lucas McClure rushed for 237 yards and three TDs.
Class C: No. 2 Waterville (8-1) at No. 1 Winslow (8-1), 1 p.m. Saturday: This cross-river rivalry, renewed this fall after a respite due to classification differences, kicks up another notch with an Eastern Maine title on the line. Winslow, the Western C champion last year, earned the No. 1 seed by edging Waterville 25-21 on a touchdown with 20.3 seconds left in their Oct. 26 regular-season meeting. Waterville, an Eastern B finalist in 2012, is coming off a 42-27 semifinal win over No. 3 Mount Desert Island that featured a 305-yard, four-touchdown performance by running back Dan Pooler. Winslow defeated No. 5 Belfast 39-14 last week as fullback Zach Guptill and halfback Dylan Hapworth each rushed for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns.