BANGOR, Maine — With just one loss since the start of the 2006 season, the Lawrence High School football program isn’t accustomed to adversity.
But adversity arrived immediately Friday night, as the Bulldogs fumbled the opening kick-off and Bangor’s Tyler Pembroke returned it for a touchdown. And it only got worse, as Bangor twice led by 17 points during the first half.
But the two-time defending Eastern Maine champions simply wouldn’t be denied, as Lawrence wore down Bangor after intermission and reserve tailback Christian Powers’ 9-yard scoring run with 1:48 to play gave the Bulldogs an emotional 27-24 win at Cameron Stadium.
“I think our kids have always had that in them, that they’re always going to fight until the last seconds of the game,” said Lawrence coach John Hersom. “They’re not going to give up on anything. That’s something we feel we’ve had over the years, and I think this is just a great example about how our kids feel about the program, how they feel about each other, and how they love to play football.”
Bangor (1-2) was trying to end a five-game losing streak against the Bulldogs, and with Pembroke‘s stunning touchdown on the game’s first play and junior tailback Lonnie Hackett rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the young Rams seemed poised for a victory that might set the tone for the rest of the season.
“Things went so easy for us the first half that I think we just forgot who we were playing,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, “and they came back and made big play after big play and over-came penalties.
“They’re No. 1. We still haven’t beat them, but I’d like to see them again.”
Powers was an unlikely hero in that he never touched the football until the fourth quarter, but the junior came up big after starter Anthony Boudreau went out with an ankle injury.
Trailing 24-20, Lawrence drove to the Bangor 19 midway through the fourth quarter before fumbling the ball away with 6:11 left, but after forcing Bangor to punt, the Bulldogs got the ball back at their 23 with 4:14 left.
A penalty pushed Lawrence back to its 9, but the Bulldogs marched 91 yards in six plays to take the only lead they needed.
Ben Violette hit Matt Perkins on a 32-yard pass play, and Powers then rushed for gains of 11, 13 and finally 9 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
“In the fourth quarter he had some life in his legs,” said Hersom of Powers, who rushed for 54 yards overall on five carries. “Christian Powers really lifted us in the fourth quarter.”
Lawrence (3-0) also got a big night from the passing combination of Violette and Perkins. Violette completed 7 of 14 passes for 125 yards, including four completions to Perkins for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
“Matt Perkins and I have great chemistry, we play basketball together,” said Violette. “I’ve kind of got an extra feel for him, I just know where he’s going to be, and I’ve got confidence he’s going to catch it every time.”
Lonnie Hackett finished with 197 rushing yards on 20 carries for Bangor, while fullback Adam Billings added 69 yards on 13 tries.
But the ground game was slowed after intermission, in part because of a defensive adjustment by Lawrence.
“Our game plan was to run our 4-3 scheme defensively, but we just felt there were too many running lanes with not enough guys on the line of scrimmage so we decided to go with our 52 and asked our linebackers to be more aggressive than they showed in the first half,” said Hersom.
Kyle Lawson’s 26-yard field goal on Bangor’s second possession of the game extended the Rams’ lead to 10-0, and Lonnie Hackett capped off the Rams’ next possession with an 8-yard TD run to make it 17-0.
Lawrence caught a break when Bangor mis-handled a punt snap, setting up Brock Lawrence’s 1-yard scoring run with 7:42 left in the half to pull the Bulldogs within 17-7.
But Hackett scored again four plays later, this time on a 46-yard run to push Bangor’s lead back to 17 points.
Violette passed 16 yards to Perkins for a touchdown that cut the gap to 24-14 by intermission.
That duo then connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 18.8 seconds left in the third quarter to draw Lawrence within 24-20.