PITTSFIELD, Maine — Friday’s bash of the high school football unbeatens lived up to the advance billing in the first quarter as the two teams traded touchdowns and played even through the first half.
The third quarter, however, showed the difference between the unbeaten that was defending state champion and the unbeaten who was moving into the upper echelon of the LTC Class C ranks after a few rebuilding years.
John Bapst of Bangor scored 15 unanswered points in a decisive third quarter to take a 26-8 lead en route to a 33-14 victory over the Maine Central Institute Huskies on a cool and clear fall evening.
Once again, it was John Bapst’s interior line play on both sides of the ball that made the difference as the Crusaders eventually wore down an athletic Huskies squad and improved to 5-0.
“I think we came into this thing wondering where we were,” said MCI coach Tom Bertrand, whose team is now 4-1. We stepped out on the field and hit with them, but then we mentally and physically broke down a little bit.”
Much of that was due to the physical prowess of Bapst offensive linemen Chris Desmond, Keith Nelson, John Ashman, Bill Stoddard and Jason Pulley along with tight end Max Andrews.
“We were kind of shaky in the first half, but they really stepped up after halftime,” said John Bapst’s Bill Wetherbee. “They were sending everybody a lot at us and we had to adjust and instead of blocking one guy, we had to block a gap.
“The line did a great job blocking up front.”
The Crusaders’ senior tailback should know. He gained 265 yards and scored four touchdowns behind that blocking. Course, it wasn’t all the line as he twisted, fought, or squirmed through — and simply ran over — some tackles for extra yardage.
“He’s a strong, athletic kid,” said Bertrand. “He has a strong lower body and he’s shifty as well as powerful.”
Bapst took an 11-8 lead into halftime after sophomore placekicker Mark Dieuveuil kicked a 27-yard field goal with 43 seconds left in the first half.
The Crusaders then took control in the third, forcing MCI to punt after three plays in their opening possession, taking the ball at the MCI-38, and using six plays to score with Wetherbee taking it off left tackle for a 7-yard TD run.
After forcing the Huskies to go three-and-punt again, Bapst made it 26-8 with a six-play, 86-yard scoring drive started by a 42-yard Wetherbee run and finished by a 5-yard Wetherbee run.
Wetherbee would make it 33-8 by capping a five-play, 50-yard drive with a 2-yard run with 9:33 left in the game.
Bapst ground the Huskies up for 332 yards on the ground and 463 total while MCI was held to 133 total.
“Early on we blitzed, but we got burned by it a couple times, so we decided to stay back and take care of our gaps and did well,” said Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way they responded in the second half.
“From end to end, they play physical, take care of their responsibilities and make plays. They really run to the ball and gang tackle really well.”
MCI quarterback Shawn Bennett managed just 41 yards rushing on 14 carries and 54 yards on 5-for-18 passing while being intercepted twice.
“Our game plan was to limit Bennett’s big plays, try to take the ball out of his hands as much as possible and bottle him up,” O’Connell said.
Wetherbee and Shane Hass each had one interception.
Hass accounted for 195 total yards with 131 through the air on 8-for-14 passing.