BANGOR — At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and already armed with two years of varsity experience, John Bapst of Bangor junior Max Andrews figures to be one of the more versatile football players in the LTC this fall.
But the tight end and defensive end took that versatility to a new level Saturday nights, scoring three first-half touchdowns in three distinctly different ways to lead the Crusaders to a 26-6 victory over Rockland at Cameron Stadium.
“Max has a knack for being around the football,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “He’s a good athlete, in our league he’s a physical specimen, and on top of that he’s got good instincts. He uses those instincts to make big plays, and thankfully tonight he made a couple of them.”
Andrews scored on a 12-yard pass reception, a 49-yard interception return and by recovering a teammate’s fumble in the end zone to stake John Bapst to a 20-point lead.
“I just ran to the ball to help my team out,” said Andrews. “I was injured all week with back spasms so I felt like I needed to make it up to my team and put 110 percent out there on the field.”
And while John Bapst’s offense sputtered later in the game, its defense was constant, limiting Rockland to 42 net rushing yards while sacking Tigers’ quarterback Sam Meklin five times.
“We stayed after them on defense and were physical, but we just have to do a better job of maintaining our intensity for four quarters,” said O’Connell. “We’re not nearly good enough to play a couple of quarters and expect to win. We have to play all four quarters, and tonight that was a testament to Rockland, because they wouldn’t quit. They played hard for all four quarters and made us get our act together.”
The win leaves John Bapst at 2-0 and one of just three remaining unbeaten teams in the Eastern Maine Class C ranks along with Stearns of Millinocket and Calais-Woodland.
Rockland dips to 1-1.
“That’s a good football team,” said Rockland coach Woody Moore. “We knew we had to come out tonight and do things right and for the most part defensively in the second half we came out and played football. “But we had some mental mistakes that cost us, and there were a couple of things that just didn’t go our way.”
John Bapst took a 6-0 lead with a 44-yard drive on its first possession capped off when senior quarterback Jordan Charpentier passed to Andrews in the right slot with 7:21 left in the first quarter.
“[Lucas] Philippon was wide and outside so that brought the linebacker and cornerback over,” said Andrews. “The middle linebacker was inside, so I thought the pop pass up the middle was open and it went for a touchdown.”
Andrews scored again on the first play of the second quarter, intercepting a Meklin screen pass and sprinting 49 yards to the end zone. Mark Dieuveuil kicked the extra point to give the Crusaders a 13-0 lead.
“Coach was yelling at me to get the back out [running back coming out of the backfield] so I told myself I was going to focus on that and I just baited the quarterback into it and picked it off for a touchdown,” Andrews said.
Andrews found yet another way to score later in the period, recovering a fumble in the end zone on a carry by Charpentier to make it 20-0 with 7:36 left before intermission. The recovery ended a seven-play, 56-yard drive that was ignited by a 27-yard pass down the left sideline from Charpentier to Dieuveuil.
Meklin and tight end David Harrison combined on a 33-yard pass play to get Rockland on the board with 3:49 left in the half. The play highlighted an 83-yard march that also featured completions of 21 and 45 yards from Meklin to Dan Hendricks.
One play after Meklin was stripped of the ball for a 20-yard loss, the sophomore quarterback found Harrison open along the right sideline, with a key block by Hendricks at the 25 freeing Harrison to race to the end zone.
Rockland threatened after taking the second-half kickoff, marching to the John Bapst 14. But an illegal procedure penalty on second-and-5 pushed the ball back, and the drive ended when Meklin was sacked by Andrews and Chris Desmond on a fourth-and 10 play.
The Crusaders eventually extended their lead back to 20 points on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Charpentier to Lucas Philippon with 4:15 left in the game.