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Eastern Maine high school football champions seek better fortune in state finals

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Bucksport High School's Shawn Smith tries to plow past Orono High School's Collin Clement (28), Justin Szeker (83) and Dominic Mowrer (20, bottom) on a carry in the fourth quarter of their Eastern Maine LTC Class C Championship in Bucksport Saturday afternoon, Nov. 12, 2011. Golden Buck teammates James Comtois (top left), and Mike York hover for protection. Bucksport defeated Orono 25-14.
By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

Championship Saturday has arrived for the six high school football teams — all undefeated — that are still alive in Maine this season, with a tripleheader of state finals scheduled to begin shortly after 11 a.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

The Eastern Maine representatives in those contests — Class A Lawrence of Fairfield, Class B Leavitt of Turner Center and Class C Bucksport — can only hope that things go better than they did for last year’s regional champions, who all lost by a combined 100-14.

Competition in classes B and C at the state championship level has been relatively even in recent years. But Class A? That’s a different story. The West has won 27 of the 29 state Class A championship games played since Bangor won the 1981 state title. Only Bangor in 2001 and Lawrence in 2006 have infringed upon that West domination.

The West holds a 7-5 lead over the East in Class B state finals since the start of the 1999 season, while the West holds a 7-5 edge in Class C title games during that span.

Bucksport, which won its last Class C state title in 2004, would like to narrow that East vs. West gap in its division when it squares off against defending state champion Yarmouth shortly after 2:30 p.m.

Coach Joel Sankey’s club has relied on strength, quickness and power football on both sides of the line of scrimmage to retain its unbeaten status, but will be tested on the FieldTurf of Fitzpatrick Stadium by a Yarmouth team that will be playing its eighth game of the season on artificial turf.

“They’re definitely a quick team,” said Bucksport senior fullback-linebacker Chris Powell. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I think we match up pretty well.”

Bucksport’s offense features its version of thunder and lightning in 240-pound senior running back Shawn Smith and senior quarterback Mike Cummings. Smith has rushed for more than 900 yards and nine touchdowns this fall, while Cummings has passed for more than 700 yards and nearly matched that amount on the ground.

The Golden Bucks complement that offense with an attacking defense featuring linebackers Smith, Powell and sophomore Nic Bishop.

“They’re a solid team,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman of Bucksport. “We’re very concerned about their quarterback, and they can run the football. And they have impact players on defense, especially their linebackers. They really run and flow to the football.”

Yarmouth, which is riding a 23-game winning streak and has won 31 of its last 32 games since early in the 2009 season, features a run-oriented offense that has churned out 4,402 rushing yards this fall.

Senior Anders Overhaug leads the Clippers with 1,610 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, while junior Caleb Uhl (1,073 yards, 13 TDs) also has been proficient on the ground behind sophomore quarterback Brady Neujhar, who also started as a freshman in Yarmouth’s 34-6 victory over Stearns of Millinocket in the 2010 state final.

Defensively the Clippers are led by senior nose guard Ben Weinrich, linebacker Mike Woodbury and Overhaug at safety.

“They’re very, very fast,” said Bucksport coach Joel Sankey. “They’re a big-play team.”

Saturday’s schedule begins at 11:06 a.m. with defending champion Cheverus of Portland facing Lawrence in the Class A final.

Like Yarmouth, the Stags also enter their state final with a 23-game winning streak after a 21-10 victory over Thornton Academy of Saco in the Western Maine title game.

Cheverus has remained unbeaten this fall despite losing 1,000-yard rusher Spencer Cooke — who rushed for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns in the Stags’ 46-8 win over Bangor in last year’s state game — to a broken leg bone late in the regular season.

Cam Olson, a first-year starter at quarterback, has been an offensive catalyst for coach John Wolfgram’s club, with senior Louis DiStasio a dangerous receiving threat.

Wolfgram, who guided Cheverus to its first state title since 1985 last fall, is seeking his 10th state championship overall as a head coach, with previous gold balls won at Madison (1), Gardiner (3), South Portland (4) and Cheverus (1).

Wolfgram is in his sixth season at Cheverus, where he has guided the Stags to a 41-18 record.

Lawrence ended Bangor’s two-year run as Eastern A champion with a 40-14 victory over the Rams in last weekend’s regional final.

The Bulldogs feature senior running back Shaun Carroll Jr., who has rushed for more than 1,500 yards this fall, including a 192-yard, three-touchdown performance in the playoff win over Bangor.

Senior quarterback Alex Leathers and junior wingback-wideout Spencer Carey are other key playmakers for Lawrence, which is making its third trip to the state final in the last six years.

Coach John Hersom’s club won it all in 2006 with a 14-13 win over Gorham, then lost to Bonny Eagle of Standish 34-14 in 2007.

In Class B, Leavitt is back in the state final for the third straight year, having defeated Cape Elizabeth 35-21 in 2009 before being shut out 20-0 by Mountain Valley of Rumford last fall.

Coach Mike Hathaway’s Hornets are led by senior quarterback Jordan Hersom — who has passed for 1,600 yards and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards — and senior tailback Jake Ouellette, who has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season.

Western Maine champion Wells is making its first appearance in the state final since winning the gold ball in 1997.

The Warriors are led by a pair of three-year starters in senior quarterback Paul McDonough and senior running back-linebacker Louis DiTomasso.

Game time for the Class B final is shortly after 6 p.m.

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