DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy football team has been defined in many quarters this fall by an explosive offense that has produced nearly 50 points per game.
But just as important during the Ponies’ rise to the No. 1 seed in the LTC Class C ranks has been a defense that has produced some remarkable statistics of its own.
Foxcroft (9-1) has yielded just 41 points this season, entering Saturday’s 1 p.m. conference championship game against second-ranked John Bapst of Bangor with seven shutouts among those 10 games.
Even more impressive is that the Ponies have yielded an average of fewer than 100 yards per game of total offense — 99.3 to be exact after limiting Bucksport to 66 yards in last weekend’s 45-0 semifinal victory.
“There’s no forecasting the defensive results we’ve gotten,” said Foxcroft coach Danny White. “We knew we had the kids to play at a high level, but they’ve been exceptional.”
Of of the Ponies’ top defensive performances came Oct. 6 in a 40-0 victory over a John Bapst team that has gone on to average 35.1 points per game this fall with a remarkably balanced offense.
John Bapst, also 9-1, has rushed for 1,582 yards and 24 touchdowns this year while passing for 1,549 yards and 24 touchdowns.
“John Bapst is a different kind of team than we’ve faced most of the year,” said Foxcroft senior linebacker Alex Stevens, the Ponies’ leading tackler during the regular season. “They like to spread us out more, and their quarterback [Austin Spencer] can make plays with his arm and his feet and that just makes us have to all commit to our jobs. Defensive ends have to contain, and the cornerbacks and safeties have to commit to the receivers.”
Foxcroft’s ability to contain opponents has featured its own balanced approach.
“First and foremost is their physicality, not just in their front four or front seven but across the board,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell. “With some teams if you can get past their front seven you can run to daylight, but with Foxcroft they’ll smack you in the mouth one to 11.”
The Ponies’ defensive front features senior tackles Louis LaFache and Alex Sedore flanked by senior end Dustin Raymond and junior end Kolby Kendall. Stevens, classmate Wesley Stinson, junior Corey Bjornson and sophomore Peter Boyer play linebacker, with seniors Ryan Rebar and Don Boyer and junior Hunter Law in the secondary.
“Truthfully, before the season started I didn’t think our defense would be this good,” said LaFache. “I knew we had the talent but we just clicked this year. We’ve worked really well together, we take care of our assignments and we’ve worked a lot on our techniques and that’s helped a lot.
“Everybody just does what they’re supposed to do, and everything’s a team effort.”
While Foxcroft’s defense stymied John Bapst earlier this season, there’s no expectation of an easy time in the rematch given the Crusaders’ wealth of offensive playmakers.
“This is a week that defensively you’re looking more to read and react with speed and good decision making,” said White. “They’re going to do what they do and try to get kids in space to make plays, so we’re going to have to trust one another that we’re all going to be playing our own positions, and being able to tackle in the open field also is critical.”
John Bapst junior quarterback Spencer leads the LTC in pass completions (88), attempts (164), passing yardage (1,479) and touchdown passes (23) while also leading his team with 578 yards from the spread formation.
Leading targets for Spencer are Jake Moore (31 receptions, 478 yards), Andrew Catlin (22-514 with nine touchdowns), Josh Baker (19-344) and Austin Cyr (12-177), while Moore (59 rushes, 442 yards) and Brad DeCesere (60-242, seven TDs) are other top rushing threats.