The Bangor High School football team was at a competitive crossroads early in its season opener against cross-river rival Brewer at Cameron Stadium on Friday night.
The Rams had fumbled the ball away at their own 20-yard line on the first play from scrimmage after Brewer had taken a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, and the Witches quickly converted that turnover into a 9-yard touchdown run by senior halfback Kaleb Bryant to build their lead to two touchdowns.
The wrong side of momentum was a place Bangor has experienced often during the past four seasons, and it has rarely worked out in the Rams’ favor.
This night was different.
Bangor responded by driving 68 yards in six plays to pull within 21-14 on the final play of the opening quarter and went on to score the game’s final 35 points for a decisive 42-21 victory in the 108th edition of a football rivalry that began in 1903.
Bangor leads the series 74-26-8.
“We’ve all seen games and been in situations the last couple of years when that could have turned into a 40-7 game,” second-year Bangor head coach Dave Morris said. “But I think our guys knew where we were, and we made some adjustments and played together.”
Bangor’s primary on-field adjustment was to add players to its defensive front, a tactic that helped the Rams limit Brewer to 106 rushing yards over the final three quarters — after being gouged for 102 yards and three rushing touchdowns during the first 10 minutes, 30 seconds.
“We had a lot of guys on the football,” Bangor junior linebacker and running back James Neel said. “It was great.”
Bangor complemented that defensive uptick with a balanced offense that included seven different ballcariers and six different receivers — most of them sophomores and juniors — as the youthful Rams and Witches combined to start only five seniors among 10 total seniors on their rosters.
Junior Jonny Lyon paced Bangor’s ground game with 123 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries behind an offensive front led by seniors Bryce Henaire and Ezra Hamer-Nagle.
After an 0-for-3 start, sophomore quarterback Max Clark completed nine of his past 12 passes for 129 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown strike to Keegan Cyr.
“Our offensive line did a great job, our running backs ran hard, our quarterback controlled the game and threw the ball very well, and our receivers caught the ball well,” Morris said. “Obviously we had a couple of mishaps [two turnovers], but they played as a unit and executed one play at a time.”
But one game does not make a season, as Bangor now must prepare for a Week 2 road trip to Lewiston on Friday night to face the Blue Devils, who were shut out by Oxford Hills of South Paris 40-0 in Week 1.
Even so, 1-0 feels pretty good for a Bangor program that had won just three regular-season games during the four previous years.
“We really haven’t spoken a lot about our past; we’re just looking forward to our future,” Morris said. “We’ve got a lot of things to improve on. We’re not there by any stretch of the imagination, but the big thing is we’ve got guys who are caring for each other, respecting each other and are definitely getting to know each other.
“When you do that and play as a team, you’re going to be successful.”