BANGOR, Maine — Bangor High School’s 2008 football season was an aberration by almost any measure.
The Rams did earn a playoff berth, but a defeat in the regional quarterfinals left the team with a 3-6 record – the first losing season for the program since 1991.
Even when Bangor last failed to earn a postseason berth it had a winning record — 5-3 in 2005.
So what’s resulted since the Rams began their long bus ride home after absorbing a 34-26 loss to Lewiston in their final game last fall has been a 12-month exercise in redemption.
“Having a losing record last year didn’t justify the skill we had on the team,” said Bangor senior center Joe Quinn, who also started on the 2008. “Things didn’t go our way last year, and we definitely didn’t want that to happen again.”
It’s now a year later, and so far, so good on the redemption front as Bangor will carry an 11-0 record into Saturday’s 11 a.m. Class A state championship game against 10-1 Windham.
“We didn’t like losing, and this year we’ve been determined not to lose,” said Bangor senior tackle Jacob Thompson. “We don’t like that feeling.”
Bangor’s struggles last fall were largely a function of the Rams’ collective youth. Just a handful of seniors started for the Rams, leaving plenty of underclassmen to pick up the slack and gain valuable experience.
It was an experience not without growing pains that 12 months later are now lessons learned.
“The difference between this year and last year,” said Quinn, “was that last year we’d get behind, things wouldn’t be going our way, and we’d get upset and go off on our own schedules.
“This year, we might get two straight penalties and be third-and-20, but we’ll still be fired up and ready to go get that first down. Things like that don’t get us down anymore.”
Bangor enters its fourth state final in the last 10 years and first since 2004 with an offense featuring senior tailback Lonnie Hackett and junior quarterback Joe Seccareccia.
Hackett has rushed for 2,057 yards on 284 carries and scored 26 touchdowns while becoming a serious contender for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, presented annually to the state’s top senior football player.
Seccareccia, in his second season as Bangor’s starting quarterback, has completed 79 of 140 passes for 1,211 yards with 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions. The 6-foot-6 signal caller also showed off his rushing ability during Bangor’s 24-7 win over Brunswick in last weekend’s Pine Tree Conference Class A championship game with 93 yards and a touchdown.
Seccareccia has a pair of tall targets in 6-4 senior split end Nate Henigan (38 catches, 411 yards) and 6-4 junior flanker Josiah Hartley (23-474, 9 TDs), while junior tight end John Kelley (12-244) has emerged as more of a receiving threat late in the season.
Senior Maxx Alexander, a first-year starter at fullback, has averaged 5.6 yards per carry and been a significant blocking presence.
Sophomore linebacker Nic Cota, senior defensive back Nate Lewis and Seccareccia (six interceptions) at safety are the team’s top tacklers, while Quinn, Thompson, classmates Tom Augustine, Andrew Logan and Ben Rapaport and junior Josh Bishop lead the Rams at the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve played teams that are big and physical, but I don’t think we’ve played a team as big as Bangor,” said eighth- year Windham coach Matt Perkins. “They’re huge up front on both sides of the line, they’re athletic at receiver, they’ve got speed at running back, a big fullback and their quarterback can throw it as far as he wants to.”
Windham, which has won nine straight games since a 27-13 loss to Cheverus of Portland in Week 2 of the regular season, features its own cast of playmakers.
Senior quarterback Jackson Taylor has passed for some 1,500 yards, with senior H-back Matt Gledhill and tight end Jake Darling his favorite targets.
Senior halfback Jack Mallis has provided the bulk of Windham’s running game with 1,300 yards, and he scored his team’s only touchdown last weekend as the Eagles avenged their lone loss with a 7-6 victory over Cheverus in the Western Maine Class A final.
Windham — which defeated two-time defending state champion Bonny Eagle of Standish both during the regular season and in the Western A semifinals — isn’t as experienced as Bangor at the line of scrimmage, but both teams have been stingy defensively. Bangor has allowed just 13.3 points per game; Windham 11.8.
“The challenge is to win two of the three stages of the game and to limit turnovers,” said Mark Hackett, who has guided Bangor to a 73-20 record, three Eastern Maine championships and one state title in nine years as the Rams’ head coach.
“We’re going to go for it, we’re not going to play cautious. These guys have earned this, they’re excited about playing and we’re going to go after it.”