Week 1 of the high school football season is a time for optimism among all teams that play the sport and opportunity to build early momentum.
The big prize, of course, is more than two months away when state championship games in Classes A, B and C are held Nov. 22, at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
But the quest for those ultimate opportunities begin on opening night.
Skowhegan Indians vs. Brewer Witches, 7 p.m. Friday, Doyle Field, Brewer: This could be the shortest game of Week 1, with both teams employing the double-wing offense that features tight formations and plenty of action in the middle of the field.
Skowhegan has run the double wing in recent years, including last fall when coach Mike Marston’s club finished 7-3 and advanced to the Pine Tree Conference Class A semifinals.
Brewer, 0-8 in its return to the Class A ranks last season, is using the double wing to jump-start its program at the varsity level, and according to head coach Don Farnham also is introducing the attack throughout the local youth football program.
“This year we’ve just been working harder than we did last year,” said senior captain Jon Thoms, an offensive lineman and linebacker. “We don’t want to do the same thing as last year, so we’re just pushing ourselves a lot more.”
Mattanawcook Academy Lynx vs. Foxcroft Academy Ponies, 7 p.m. Friday, Oakes Field, Dover-Foxcroft: Defending state champion Foxcroft begins its quest for its fourth consecutive LTC Class C title against one of its primary rivals.
Coach Paul Withee’s club has won 39 consecutive games on Oakes Field, a streak dating back to October 2001.
The Ponies suffered some significant graduation losses from last year’s undefeated team, but returns some top-notch talent including senior quarterback Jamie Nason, junior halfback-linebacker Ian Champeon and senior lineman Andrew Larson.
Mattanawcook, another playoff qualifier last fall, boasts a new head coach in Dave Hainer, a former Lynx football player during the 1990s who replaces Art Greenlaw after serving as a coordinator on Greenlaw’s staff in recent years.
MA also will boast a new look on the field, as Hainer has installed a spread offense.
The Lynx should remain a strong running team, however, with Brady Vose a returning 1,000-yard rusher and fullbacks Josh Murchison and Greg Hand also cable rushers and blockers.
Winslow Black Raiders vs. Mount Desert Island Trojans, 7 p.m. Friday at Bar Harbor: This is a rematch of a rain-soaked 2007 Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinal, won by Winslow 24-0.
These teams may have different strengths this season. MDI returns several key skill-position players, including quarterback Tyler Crawford, tailback Odane Gaynor and wideout Terrence Jones, while linebacker Camden Fernald anchors the defense.
Winslow graduated most of its skill-position players, but does return bruising fullback-linebacker Eric Bezanson as well as a physical line featuring Don Wendell and Ryan Rancourt.
MDI likely will try to get the ball to Gaynor and Jones outside the tackles to create one-on-one situations, while Winslow may work from its base of power football.
Both teams should contend for playoff berths in the Pine Tree Conference Class B ranks, and an opening-night victory could prove crucial in generating momentum for the winner.
Hampden Academy Broncos vs. Belfast Lions, 7 p.m. Friday at Belfast: Both teams finished 3-5 and among a four-way tie for seventh place in the Pine Tree Conference Class B a year ago. But while Belfast grabbed the eighth and final playoff spot thanks to the Crabtree points, Hampden Academy finished on the outside looking in.
Both teams are hoping to use this season opener as a jumping-off point for a playoff run in 2008, and both teams have reason for optimism.
Belfast, which lost to Gardiner in the Eastern B quarterfinals, features a veteran line that includes four third-year starters.
Hampden boasts one of the region’s top quarterbacks in senior Shawn Smith, who has started for the Broncos since his freshman year.
The Broncos aren’t big up front, though, so they will try to counter the Lions’ interior strength by getting outside the defense.
Bucksport Golden Bucks vs. John Bapst Crusaders, 7 p.m. Saturday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: The 2007 season represented somewhat of a role reversal for these two teams. John Bapst had one of its best seasons in decades, finishing 9-2 and reaching the LTC Class C championship game. Bucksport, despite its 5-4 record, did not qualify for postseason play for the first time in more than a decade.
With the expanded LTC sending eight of its 12 teams to the playoffs this fall, Bapst and Bucksport both are likely postseason qualifiers this fall.
But the battle for the top four positions — and the first-round home field advantage it provides — should be fierce, and that’s where this game may hold its long-range importance.
Bucksport features one of the LTC’s most dangerous offensive threats in senior tailback Nate Warren to go along with a team that grew stronger as the 2007 season progressed.
John Bapst suffered some major graduation losses, but don’t be fooled — the Crusaders return seven starters on offense and five on defense.