Week 8 of the high school football season marks the final games before playoff time for schools in five of the six divisions statewide.
Only in the 10-team Pine Tree Conference Class A ranks, the only division to send just four teams to postseason play instead of eight, will the regular season continue for another week, while for the rest of the state’s football teams their playoff tickets will be confirmed or denied by Saturday night.
BANGOR Rams (6-1) at Messalonskee Eagles (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Veterans Field, Oakland: Bangor concludes its regular season with back-to-back games against teams that employ the tightly knit double-wing offense in Messalonskee and Skowhegan.
But Messalonskee, which like Bangor is in prime condition to move closer to securing a PTC Class A playoff berth with a win, has an additional weapon with which to challenge the Bangor defense in senior wingback-defensive back Sam Dexter.
Dexter has been one of the region’s top playmakers, having scored touchdowns via kick return, interception return, pass reception and rushing.
“They have the best athlete in the league in Sam Dexter, and I don’t think it’s close,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett of the Messalonskee three-sport (football, hockey, baseball) star. “He’s a home run hitter, someone who can score every time he touches the ball.
“They’ve become much more diverse because of him.”
Bangor’s offense is averaging 38.8 points per game this season — including 45.2 points per outing during its current five-game win streak. A big reason why is that the Rams’ offense, directed by junior quarterback Carl Farnham and featuring emerging junior fullback Cody Chapman, has committed just six turnovers in seven games.
By contrast, Lewiston turned the ball over seven times in its 38-6 loss at Bangor last weekend, while 6-1 Brunswick suffered its only loss to Bangor in Week 1 largely because of six lost fumbles.
“It’s a big reason we’re winning,” said Hackett. “It makes it a lot easier when you get the ball that many more times.”
Hackett said Bangor’s defense also has tightened up in recent weeks, in part because of the linebacking play of Chapman and senior Ellis Throckmorton.
BREWER Witches (6-1) at Hampden Academy Broncos (4-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Weatherbee Complex: Brewer is hoping to extend its six-game winning streak, while Hampden will attempt to bounce back from a road loss at Mount Desert Island in anticipation of the start of the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs next weekend.
Brewer is coming off its most impressive victory of the season, a 27-13 win over Waterville that moved the Witches into fourth place in the Crabtree point ratings and put them in line to host an Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinal — particularly if they can knock off sixth-seeded Hampden.
“We’ve got an even bigger challenge this week,” said Brewer coach Don Farnham.
Brewer will be challenged to defend Hampden’s prolific rushing tandem of senior Nick Stevens and junior Logan Steward, each of whom is averaging approximately 10 yards per carry. Stevens has rushed for 1,052 yards on 101 carries while Steward has gained 806 yards on 81 tries, including 446 yards in his last two games.
Brewer will counter with its “pistol” spread offense directed by senior quarterback Chris Miller and featuring the big-play capability of senior wideout Anthony Jackson along with the inside running of running backs Dillon Smith and Brody Valley.
JOHN BAPST Crusaders (6-1) at Orono Red Riots (6-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Alfond Stadium, University of Maine: This marks the second straight year these LTC rivals have shared “Senior Night” on the artificial surface at the state university’s flagship campus.
The winner of this contest will be the No. 2 seed for the eight-team Eastern Maine Class C playoffs that begin next weekend, with the loser relegated to the No. 3 seed. That means that if those seeds hold up through the quarterfinals, John Bapst and Orono would meet again in the semifinals on the home field of Friday night’s winner.
Both teams feature high-powered offenses, though they come at their success from different philosophical perspectives.
John Bapst runs a spread formation that features the LTC’s top passer in senior Deven Romain, who has thrown for 1,032 yards with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Senior tight end Max Andrews (17 catches for 248 yards with five TDs) is the top offensive target as well as the conference leader defensively with 12 quarterback sacks.
Orono counters with its Oklahoma-T formation that features the league’s top running back in senior Dominic Mowrer (106 carries, 1,047 yards, 16 TDs). Mowrer last week topped 1,000 rushing yards for the third straight year and will finish his career as the second-leading rusher in school history behind Zac Pelleriti, who rushed for 4,854 yards before graduating in 1994.
Mowrer teams with younger brothers Christian (76-739, 11 TDs) and Cameron (42-336, 6 TDs) Mowrer and Norton Revell (30-342, 5 TDs) to give the Red Riots the deepest stable of running backs in the conference.