Suddenly it’s the second half of the high school football campaign, and for several contending teams it marks the start of a rugged run to the regular-season finish line.
Take Hampden Academy, which has rebounded from an opening-night loss at reigning Class B state champion Mt. Blue of Farmington with three straight victories. For the next two weekends, the Broncos are matched up against the two teams that met for the Eastern Maine Class A crown last fall in Lawrence of Fairfield and Cony of Augusta.
Or consider 2012 Class C state champion Foxcroft Academy, whose next three games involve opponents with a combined 11-1 record this fall in Waterville, Mount Desert Island and Winslow.
“We certainly know we are going into the heart of our schedule right now,” said Foxcroft coach Danny White, “and the kids are excited about it.”
Waterville (4-0) at Foxcroft Academy (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Oakes Field, Dover-Foxcroft: Two athletic teams with high-powered offenses and stingy defenses square off for the chance to remain at the top of the Eastern C standings.
Waterville, the Eastern B runner-up a year ago, has yet to be tested — using a two-quarterback approach featuring Aidan FitzGerald and Brian Bellows to outscore Old Town, Camden Hills of Rockport, Nokomis of Newport and Hermon by a combined 223-30.
“They’ve got athletes all over the field, up front, in the backfield and with their quarterbacks — plural,” said White.
Foxcroft is led by the duo of Peter Boyer and Corey Bjornson, running backs on offense and linebackers on defense, as well as senior quarterback Hunter Law.
“As the season has unfolded, this is certainly a big-time test to find out where we are and where the league is,” said White.
Lawrence (2-2) at Hampden Academy (3-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Weatherbee Complex, Hampden: Two teams with contrasting styles square off with the goal of remaining within contact of undefeated Brunswick in the Eastern B standings.
While Lawrence takes a more traditional run-oriented approach featuring Ethan Powers and Beau Grenier, Hampden Academy employs a wide-open offense that so far this fall has featured a 60-40 pass-to-run split.
Hampden’s attack has yielded averages of 270 passing yards and 160 rushing yards per game.
“As much as people think we throw the ball all the time, I think we’re pretty well rounded,” said Broncos’ coach Kevin Canty.
Hampden senior quarterback Matt Martin has passed for 842 yards with 15 touchdowns and one interception, while receivers Austin Spencer, Matt Closson and Dan Marquis have combined for 16 touchdown receptions while averaging more than 20 yards with their 36 catches.
The Hampden rushing attack, meanwhile, is averaging 5.2 yards per carry as the Broncos’ offense complements a defense led by middle linebacker Jeremy Kelsey (10 tackles per game) and lineman John Chen.
“You look at Lawrence and they’re one of the top programs in the state,” said Canty of the two-time defending Eastern A champions. “Lawrence is where we want to be.
“Our kids know Lawrence is pretty good, a tough, physical team, and we certainly have much respect for them,” Canty said.
Bangor (2-2) at Windham (3-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Yet another crossroads game, this time in Eastern A, matches the combatants in the 2009 state final, when Windham rallied from a 21-7 second-quarter deficit for a 35-21 victory.
Bangor may have played its best game of the season last week in a 33-20 loss to Portland. The Rams trailed 12-0 early but rallied to take a 20-19 lead in the second half before Portland mounted a late comeback.
“I’m pleased with the progress, I was really proud that we played the full four quarters,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “We just have to win games.”
Windham will be celebrating its homecoming as well as seeking to rebound from a 57-22 loss to unbeaten Cheverus of Portland. The Eagles feature one of the division’s top running backs in senior Liam Sullivan.
“They do a little bit of everything,” Hackett said of Windham, “and they do it very, very well.”
Bucksport (4-0) at Orono (2-2), 7 p.m. Friday: Bucksport has done nothing to diminish preseason expectations, cruising to an undefeated start under veteran coach Joel Sankey, who recently moved into third place in LTC career coaching wins with a total that now stands at 126.
The Bucks feature an abundance of playmakers including quarterback Matthew Stewart, running backs Asher Bowden and Nic Bishop, and wingback-wide receiver Josh Gray — all of whom also play key defensive roles.
“It’s a big challenge,” said Orono coach Bob Sinclair. “They’re certainly the best team talent-wise in the league, that’s what everybody’s saying.”
Orono was expected to be one of Bucksport’s chief rivals, but lingering injuries have slowed that effort.
“We have to find a way to get healthy so we can practice together, and that’s been a challenge,” said Sinclair. “If you’re not healthy you can’t practice together, and if you don’t practice together you don’t play well together and that’s what we’ve been battling.”