Week 5 of the high school football season not only coincides with the turn to October, but also with the start of the second half of the schedule in all but Class A, which plays an additional ninth game before the playoffs.
The first half of the schedule has reaffirmed the strength of numerous regular contenders, though tiered crossover scheduling designed to create more competitive games has left blemishes on the records of a few typical powerhouses.
One example is Class C Winslow, which dropped its opener at three-time defending state champion Wells in a competitive 18-6 battle but since then has scored three straight victories by a combined score of 207-27.
One of those wins came against two-time defending Class D North champion Foxcroft Academy (2-2). The Ponies’ losses have come to the Black Raiders and undefeated Class C South contender Leavitt of Turner Center.
Hermon, which reached last fall’s Class C North championship game, also has only one blemish on its record, a Week 1 crossover defeat at Leavitt.
Those telling crossover games continue this weekend, headlined by Wells at undefeated Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield and unbeaten Class C North leader Bucksport at Hermon.
Wells Warriors (4-0) vs. MCI Huskies (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Alumni Field, Pittsfield: This game features the winners of the last three Class D state championships. MCI won it all in 2016, and Wells secured the gold ball each of the past two seasons.
Wells, also the Class C state champion in 2016, brings the state’s longest active winning streak — 32 games — into the contest. The Warriors are coming off a narrow 34-33 homefield escape against 2-2 Cape Elizabeth last weekend.
Senior Payton MacKay helped preserved Wells’ winning ways, rushing for 303 yards and four touchdowns against the Capers.
MCI has been in cruise control since opening its season with a come-from-behind 38-19 victory at Class D South contender Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale, but Friday’s game will mark the first of back-to-back major home tests for coach Tom Bertrand’s club with a matchup against Winslow looming Oct. 11.
Bucksport Golden Bucks (4-0) vs. Hermon Hawks (3-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Pottle Field, Hermon: Hermon will try to keep pace with MCI, Hermon and an up-and-coming Belfast team atop the Class C North standings but faces its toughest test since its opening-night loss at Leavitt.
Bucksport has dominated its early opposition in Class D North this season, outscoring its first four foes by a combined 185-13. The Golden Bucks, standing atop the Little Ten Conference standings, are coming off back-to-back shutouts.
That defense could be tested by a Hermon offense that has averaged 41.7 points per outing during the Hawks’ three-game winning streak.
Bangor Rams (0-4) vs. Skowhegan (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Clark Memorial Field, Skowhegan: This crossover battle renews a rivalry that has been dormant since a fourth class was added to Maine high school football in 2013, with Bangor now in Class A and Skowhegan in Class B.
Bangor has won its past four meetings, most recently a 30-27 road victory in 2012. Skowhegan’s most recent win over the Rams was a 44-20 homefield decision in 2008 when the Somerset County stalwarts went on to win the Eastern A title.
Bangor is coming off grueling home losses to Scarborough and Thornton Academy of Saco, which are a combined 7-1 this fall and have captured four of the past five Class A state championships.
Skowhegan looks poised to make a solid second-half run after a tough early schedule. Coach Ryan Libby’s club is coming off a 37-0 victory at Gardiner after consecutive losses to Brunswick, Cony of Augusta and Lawrence of Fairfield, teams with a combined 11-1 record.
Falmouth-Greely (2-2) vs. Brewer Witches (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Doyle Field, Brewer: While the differing geographic bases for these two schools suggest a crossover game, this matches two Class B North programs trying to boost their respective playoff hopes.
Eight of the 11 B North teams qualify for postseason play, but this is a big game for Brewer, which sees in its immediate future road trips to 3-1 Lawrence and 4-0 Brunswick.
Falmouth-Greely joined the cooperative team ranks this fall after Greely could not field enough players for its own team despite the fact that both the Rangers and Falmouth reached the Class B South semifinals as separate entities in 2018.
The combined program was considered a major threat to emerge among the elite in Class B North this fall. Early losses to Lawrence and Class A Oxford Hills of South Paris slowed that momentum, though the team bounced back with a 31-28 Week 4 victory over Mt. Blue.