Week 12 of the high school football season represents the final chapter for eight teams seeking to fulfill championship aspirations that in many cases date back to the players’ flag football days.
All eight state finalists in Classes A, B, C and D boast considerable tradition — the team entering this weekend’s play with the longest gold-ball drought is Class D North champion Bucksport, which previously won it all in 2004.
The championship weekend opener matches Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield (9-2) and Leavitt of Turner Center (11-0) for the Class C crown at 6 p.m. Friday from the University of Maine in Orono.
Saturday’s tripleheader at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland begins at 11 a.m. with the Class A matchup between top-ranked Thornton Academy of Saco (11-0) and No. 2 Bonny Eagle of Standish (10-1).
The Class D state final between Bucksport (9-0) and Lisbon (7-3) follows at 2:30 p.m., with the Class B rematch between Brunswick (11-0) and Marshwood of South Berwick (10-1) capping off the day at 6 p.m.
The Class C game between Leavitt and MCI features two deep casts of skill-position players as well as aggressive defenses that have come up biggest in the biggest games.
Among those skill guys are junior quarterbacks Ryan Friend of MCI and Leavitt’s Wyatt Hathaway. Each started as a freshman, and each enters Friday’s game with more than 2,300 combined passing and rushing yards this fall.
Hathaway has passed for 1,725 yards and rushed for 726 yards, while Friend has passed for 1,518 and rushed for 812.
“You’re looking at two quarterbacks who have played a lot of big games in their careers,” said Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway, Wyatt’s father. “I think they’re both football junkies. They’re pretty similar. They both run well, they both throw well, they can move around and extend some plays, and both have a lot of moxie.”
Leavitt has amassed 132 points during its three South regional victories, while MCI has scored 129 postseason points while advancing to its fifth state final in six years.
Leavitt, which last reached a state title game in 2014 and seeks its first gold ball since 2013, has allowed just 8.3 points per game during this year’s postseason behind four four-year starters: ends Cam Jordan (17 sacks) and Cole Morin, linebacker Riley Parmenter and strong safety Allen Peabody.
Coach Tom Bertrand’s MCI club, which is in search of its third state title in four years, has yielded 16.0 points per game in its three playoff wins, but most were scored after the Huskies secured comfortable leads.
“In typical coach Bertrand fashion he’s got his team playing his best football at the right time,” Hathaway said.
The Class D final may be a matchup of Bucksport’s power and Lisbon’s speed.
Bucksport, featuring size and strength along the line of scrimmage and a trio of running backs in freshman Jaxon Gross and sophomores Josh Miller and Ty Giberson with more than 2,500 combined rushing yards, dominated the Little Ten Conference this fall en route to its first state-game appearance since 2013.
Coach Joel Sankey’s club has outscored its opponents 382-47 in its nine victories, with its 5.2 points allowed per game the fewest statewide.
Bucksport’s lone test has been a Week 6 crossover game against Oak Hill of Wales and Class D South, when the Golden Bucks rallied from a 14-0 fourth-quarter deficit for a 21-14 victory.
The team’s final hurdle will be Lisbon, the No. 2 seed from Class D South that has won five of its past six games and four in a row. That surge includes a 16-13 victory at Oak Hill to end the regular season and a 48-20 victory over the Raiders two weeks later in the regional semifinals.
Coach Chris Kates’ club avenged a 49-14 Week 4 loss to top-ranked Winthrop last weekend with a 25-15 win over the Ramblers in its regional final.
The Greyhounds, seeking its first state championship since winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, are led by quarterback Seth Leeman, running back Cam Bourget and wideout Riley Quatrano, all seniors.
Class A, reduced to the state’s eight largest schools during the most recent football reclassification, will have its top two teams vying for the state championship.
Top-ranked Thornton Academy will be pursuing its second straight gold ball and fifth in the past eight seasons under coach Kevin Kezal.
No. 2 Bonny Eagle, coached by Kevin Cooper, is after its third state title in seven seasons with previous championships during that run in 2013 and 2016.
Thornton edged Bonny Eagle 21-14 in their Week 5 regular-season matchup at Standish.
In Class B, Marshwood and Brunswick will meet for the fourth time in the past six state finals with Brunswick attempting to break through for the first time against the Hawks.
Marshwood, with a record of 61-8 since the start of the 2014 season, is seeking its fifth state title overall during that span. Its lone loss so far this year was a 28-27 Week 2 defeat at Class A top seed Thornton Academy.
Brunswick won its most recent state championship in 2016.