There’s nothing like sage advice from a football veteran to motivate a youthful team before a big game. The Bangor Rams used such words of wisdom Friday night to build their longest winning streak in five years.
Coach Dave Morris’ club received a pregame speech from former Bangor coach Gabby Price before its matchup against Sanford at Cameron Stadium. And that guidance served the Rams well as they posted a 24-12 Class A victory over the Spartans.
“[Price] said everything right. He hit us right where we’re at — being a good teammate, playing with passion, being accountable,” said Morris, who played three years at Bangor under Price from 1982 through 1984.
Price was Bangor’s head coach from 1976 to 1984 and led the program again from 1992 to 2000. More recently he was the head coach at Husson University in Bangor before retiring after the 2018 season.
“The biggest thing he told our guys which motivated us was to go get them right away because you’ve got a team coming up 175 miles, and our guys did that,” Morris said of Price’s pregame advice.
After road victories at Skowhegan and Edward Little of Auburn, the win over Sanford gives 4-3 Bangor its longest winning streak since the program won its first four games of the 2014 season.
That team went on to post a 6-4 record, falling to Cheverus of Portland in the Class A North semifinals.
Times have been tough since then. In 2015, the Rams finished 3-7 and that was followed by 0-8 records in 2016 and 2017. Last fall, Bangor wound up 1-8 after a 33-14 quarterfinal loss at Cheverus.
“We played our best game last year at Cheverus, and we came back this year wanting to play our best game every week,” Bangor senior captain Bryce Henaire said.
Creating a positive environment among a youthful roster has been a key dynamic, he said.
“We can’t get rattled when things get tough because when adversity hits you’ve just got to hit back harder. That’s what we did [against Sanford],” he added.
Bangor followed Price’s advice and built a 14-0 second-quarter lead against Sanford. The Spartans pulled within 14-6, only to have Bangor extend its advantage back to two possessions early in the fourth quarter.
Sanford drew within 17-12 three minutes later, but the Spartans’ two-point conversion attempt failed and Bangor drove 58 yards for an insurance touchdown with 1:36 remaining.
“I just felt like we took some really positive steps forward, both mentally and in terms of the game of football,” Morris said. “We really chewed the clock up and kept the ball, and at the same time we scored when we needed to score.”
The Rams also exhibited statistical balance, with Joey Morrison rushing for 119 yards, Max Clark completing 11 of 20 passes for 151 yards and Bangor’s defense limiting Sanford to 166 yards of offense.
“I thought our quarterback had a heck of a game,” Morris said. “He was very patient and made some big plays when it looked like there could have been some sacks.”
Bangor’s winning streak faces a huge challenge Friday at perennial Class A powerhouse Bonny Eagle of Standish (6-1), which is ranked No. 2 in the division.
The Rams’ regular-season finale follows Nov. 1 at home against Oxford Hills (3-3), which is fifth in the eight-school statewide Class A ranks, 1 1/2 Crabtree Points ahead of sixth-place Bangor.
Then come the playoffs.
Henaire, for one, is getting used to winning football after experiencing just one victory during his first three years at Bangor.
“We knew [Sanford] was better than the teams we had already beaten, but that didn’t matter,” he said. “We focused on this week, we got our game plan together and executed it in practice and on the field.
“It was a dogfight the whole game — but we love dogfights.”