Bangor High School scored only one victory during Bryce Henaire’s first three years of varsity football.
But times, they are changing for the senior captain and his teammates.
The youthful Rams never trailed Friday evening and extended their winning streak to three games with a 24-12 Class A victory over Sanford at Cameron Stadium in Bangor.
“This is a lot of fun,” said Henaire, a two-way lineman and one of the few senior starters for coach Dave Morris’ club.
“We came out starving this year … it’s really coming together because we’re all on the same page. It’s a really good environment,” Henaire added.
Bangor (4-3) secured its most impressive win of the season against a Sanford team (4-3) that entered the contest ranked fourth in Class A.
“This was a great night for our whole town,” Morris said. “There was a great crowd here from 4 o’clock on, people tailgating, kids running around. The atmosphere was just unbelievable. It was a great Bangor win.”
Bangor jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead, then withstood a Sanford comeback before putting the game away with a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore Joey Morrison with 1:36 left in the game.
Morrison posted his third straight 100-yard rushing performance, gaining a hard-fought 119 yards on 31 carries. He sparked a ground game that was complemented by sophomore quarterback Max Clark, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 151 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Clark also scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 2-yard keeper to give Bangor a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“We can pass when we need to and we can run when we need to. We have meshed so well together,” Clark said. “We love each other and we just work hard each week.”
Bangor finished with 173 rushing yards to go with Clark’s production through the air. The Rams were successful on 11 third-down conversions and also turned three fourth-down plays into either points or a first down.
“We talked all week about moving the chains and taking one play at a time and staying right in the moment,” Morris said.
The Bangor defense was stout against a Sanford offense that was without senior quarterback Xavier Levine, who was sidelined by injury. The Spartans managed just 166 yards of total offense compared to 324 yards for Bangor.
“We didn’t care who was the quarterback,” Henaire said. “We were going to hit him, we were going to hit him often and we were going to contain the outside and force everything inside and we did just that.”
Bangor drove from its 36 inside the Sanford 20 after receiving the opening kickoff before coming up short on fourth-and-11. But two plays later, Morrison stripped the ball from Sanford running back Ethan Shain and Bangor’s Eli Bradford recovered at the Spartans’ 35.
This time, Bangor came up inches short on fourth-and-1 from the 3 as Sanford’s defense came up big.
But the Rams weren’t denied on two second-quarter possessions, with marches of 70 and 66 yards leading to the end zone.
On the first drive, a 38-yard pass from Clark to Bradford down the right sideline on third-and-11 set up Clark’s 2-yard scoring run. Cason Markevich’s extra-point kick gave Bangor a 7-0 lead with 6:51 left in the half.
Sanford soon was forced to punt, and a crafty 10-yard return by Bradford gave Bangor possession at its 34 with 2:51 remaining before the break.
Clark completed 5 of 7 passes for 57 yards on this drive, including a 12-yard connection to Cyr and passes of 13 and 16 yards to Colton Emerson. A 14-yard screen pass to Morrison — who hurdled a defender along the left sideline to extend the play — moved the ball to the 2.
One play later, Clark spotted Emerson working from left to right along the goal line for the touchdown pass.
Sanford came out of the locker room rejuvenated and quickly closed the gap to 14-6 on a 13-yard run by senior Caleb Saucier with 8:38 left in the third period.
A 23-yard field goal by Markevich restored Bangor to a two-possession lead at 17-6 with 11:02 left in the game.
Sanford responded less than two minutes later. Jacob Beninati hit Leyton Bickford with a pass along the right sideline and the 6-foot-5 University of Maine basketball commit went the distance for a 33-yard touchdown play to pull the Spartans within 17-12 with 9:08 left.
Bangor then worked 7 1/2 minutes off the clock, marching 58 yards in 14 plays en route to Morrison’s clinching touchdown on a fourth-down run.
“I knew we were going to be where we’re at now, and we’re still growing,” Morrison said.