HAMPDEN, Maine — Neither Bangor nor Hampden Academy have the luxury of easing into their high school football seasons.
Bangor opens next Friday night at Brunswick before traveling to Fairfield to take on defending Eastern Maine Class A champion Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s EM title game.
Hampden Academy, meanwhile, hosts reigning Pine Tree Conference Class B champion Leavitt of Turner Center next Friday night.
That shared sense of urgency fueled by those early-season challenges made Friday night’s exhibition game between the two teams all the more significant, and while Bangor emerged with a 27-12 victory, both teams displayed some of the characteristics that will play heavily into whatever success they achieve come playoff time in November.
For Bangor, the rushing tandem of Zeb Tuell and Cody Chapman combined for 231 yards, with Tuell amassing 130 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while quarterback Carl Farnham completed 7 of 12 passes for 90 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Senior Matt Cosgrove emerged as a top receiving threat for the Rams, catching six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, and fullback Cain Corkum added a 4-yard scoring run.
“It was the same guys doing it for us,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, whose team amassed 378 total yards, 288 coming on 47 rushing attempts. “It was Zeb and Cody and Carl, and Matt made a couple of big catches. If those guys don’t make those plays we’re not going to win.”
Hampden’s key players also came up big, with running back Logan Steward amassing 96 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries while junior Matt Martin, one of three quarterbacks used by the Broncos, completed 7 of 16 passes for 101 yards and Tyler Norris had five catches for 75 yards.
But perhaps most pleasing to eighth-year Hampden coach Harry McCluskey was his team’s play along the line of scrimmage, particularly the work of offensive linemen Joey Doyon, Jackson Cust, Logan Lafayette, Cameron Prescott and Jacob Barteaux.
“Our pass protection was really good,” said McCluskey, whose team also rushed for 205 yards. “I thought our offensive line could be good, but with how we played tonight if we can stay healthy we could have one of the better offensive lines in the league.”
Hampden jumped out to a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter on Steward’s 53-yard scoring run, but Bangor took a 7-6 lead when Corkum scored from the 4 with 22.3 seconds left in the opening period.
Bangor extended its lead to 14-6 on a 7-yard pass from Farnham to Cosgrove with 47.2 seconds left in the first half, then scored again on its first possession of the second half, with Tuell scoring on a 14-yard run to give the Rams a 20-6 cushion.
Hampden then marched 72 yards in 13 plays — converting two fourth-down plays along the way — to draw within 20-12 on a 10-yard run by Steward with 47.8 seconds left in the third period.
But Bangor countered with a 75-yard drive that was capped off when Tuell scored from 6 yards out with 7:51 left in the game.
“They were big and wore us down, but we answered the bell pretty well,” said Hackett. “They’d come back and then we’d go down and answer the bell again. I was proud that the kids pulled together and managed at least to outscore them and show a little gumption when we needed it.”
Hampden mounted another drive on its next possession, but lost the ball on a fumble inside the Bangor 5-yard line with 4:57 left.
“We’ve got a little polishing to do in places, but I was real proud of how we played,” said McCluskey. “Ever since I’ve been here I’ve wanted to play (Class A schools) to get ready, because it toughens you up as long as you can get out of it without injuries, and I think we got out of this with no major problems.”