The race to the high school football playoffs truly has seemed like a race this year, with Week 8 suddenly here after two months of mild weather that generally has belied the typically deteriorating conditions of autumn and portend an additional challenge of postseason pursuits.
First-round byes, home-field advantages and mere qualification for the playoffs are among the prizes at stake as teams face their final regular-season tests.
Brunswick (1-6) at Brewer (3-4), 7 p.m. Friday: This marks a rematch of the last two Class B North championship games, though both teams are in markedly different positions from a year ago.
Brunswick, the reigning Class B state champion and three-time defending regional title holder, dropped its first six games this fall before defeating Mt. Blue of Farmington 38-22 last week — a win that may earn the Dragons a postseason berth.
Fifth-place Brewer is coming off a 48-16 victory at Hampden Academy last weekend and would like to build on that momentum against the Dragons. The Witches loom as a team the top echelon of Class B North teams won’t want to face in the playoffs given their last-second loss to No. 2 Cony, their three-point defeat at No. 3 Messalonskee of Oakland and their season-opening win against No. 4 Lawrence.
Messalonskee (4-3) vs. Lawrence (4-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Fairfield: This rivalry game — the BDN Sports Game of the Week, live-streamed at www.bangordailynews.com — has plenty of playoff implications. Losses by both teams last week dropped them out first-round bye positions in Class B North behind No. 1 Skowhegan and No. 2 Cony of Augusta.
But that will change for the winner of this point-worthy battle as it is likely to climb back into at least second place, if not earn the No. 1 seed.
Messalonskee features Class B North’s top rusher in Austin Pelletier (1,223 yards, 13 touchdowns on 149 carries) while Cony boasts the leading receiver in Jordan Roddy (54 catches, 554 yards, seven TDs) and second-leading passer in Anthony Sousa (144 of 225, 1,518 yards, 15 TDs).
Winslow (6-1) vs. Maine Central Institute (4-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Pittsfield: Longtime Winslow coach Mike Siviski was on hand last Friday to scout MCI’s 34-20 victory over Foxcroft Academy and had to be impressed by what he saw.
MCI unleashed a multifaceted ground game featuring Adam Bertrand, Pedro Matos and converted lineman Seth Bussell, and freshman quarterback Ryan Friend continued to show his development as a first-year starter as the defending Class D state champions moved up to third place in Class C North.
Winslow has won its last five games, but may have to settle for second place in the division if top-seeded Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor wins its regular-season finale against Nokomis of Newport.
The Black Raiders pulled away from a solid Oceanside of Rockland club 35-21 last weekend behind Ryan Fredette’s 169 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Nokomis (6-1) vs. Mount Desert Island (6-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Bar Harbor: Nokomis seeks to continue its breakthrough season in Class C North and earn a home playoff game, but the Newport team will have to go through the reigning regional champions.
MDI brings a six-game winning streak into the contest, including last week’s 36-22 victory over previously undefeated Leavitt of Turner Center, the top-ranked team in Class C South. That win moved the Trojans solidly into first place in the North.
Nokomis has won five straight games since its lone loss, a 12-0 decision at MCI in Week 2.
Waterville (3-4) at Hermon (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday: Both teams have already taken major strides this fall, with Waterville improving from a winless campaign in 2016 while Hermon has two more victories than it had in the previous three years combined.
Hermon, sixth in C North, is seen as a team no one wants to play in the regional quarterfinals next week.
The Hawks have won two straight since their two-point loss to perennial powerhouse Winslow, including last week’s 44-13 victory over Dexter-Piscataquis.
Waterville, ranked seventh in a Class C North race that will send its top eight teams to the playoffs, halted a four-game losing streak with its 41-13 win over Old Town last Saturday.
Foxcroft Academy (5-2) vs. Mattanawcook Academy (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Lincoln: The winner likely will finish atop the Class D North standings and earn a first-round playoff bye, while the loser is expected to host an LTC quarterfinal next weekend.
Second-ranked Foxcroft, which had its five-game winning streak halted in a 34-20 loss at Class C MCI last weekend, has averaged 40.7 points per game this fall.
Third-seeded Mattanawcook Academy, which defeated Stearns-Schenck 56-6 last Friday, has averaged 37.1 points per game, including 54.4 points per game during its three-game winning streak.