The football game between Class A unbeaten teams Bangor High School and Thornton Academy of Saco has been moved from Friday night to Saturday night at 6 p.m. in Saco.
Both teams are 3-0.
The switch will enable Bangor to regain 21 players who have been in quarantine for the last 10 days due to a COVID-19 case and contact tracing.
The players will come off quarantine on Saturday morning, allowing them to play on Saturday night.
Bangor High School athletic director Steve Vanidestine said the combination of injuries suffered in last Friday’s 37-36 win over Scarborough and the COVID-related absences would have put the team’s available players at risk if they played Friday night.
He was reluctant to send his team to Saco on Friday, so the game wouldn’t have been played.
“I was concerned about the safety and welfare of our players,” Vanidestine said.
He added that he was grateful to Thornton Academy athletic director Gary Stevens and head football coach Kevin Kezal for agreeing to move the game to Saturday night.
“I’m happy that we’re getting the opportunity to play. And being able to get those [quarantined] kids back is the safe way to go,” Vanidestine said.
Bangor High head football coach David Morris was also pleased with the decision.
“It’s great. If we had played Friday night, we would have had to use players in positions they had never played before and we would have had to use freshmen who had never played in a [varsity] game. They had played only one JV game,” he said.
“The safety of our players would have come into play. It wouldn’t have been fair to our kids.”
The Maine Principals’ Association’s sports medicine advisory committee has recommended that players coming out of quarantine have one practice and a walk-through before playing.
Morris said the team will have a one-hour practice and walk-through on Saturday morning before making the 146-mile trek to Saco.
Fifteen of the 21 players who will return were starters on offense, defense or special teams.
The Bangor coach said the team has been particularly depleted in the defensive backfield and at the outside linebacker position, in addition to special teams. Some of the returning players play those positions.
Morris said he has had Zoom meeting with the quarantined players and that they have been working out on their own to prepare for their return.
The game will feature two of the state’s top offenses and most dynamic quarterbacks.
Max Clark has engineered the Rams to a 44.3 points per game average while Jack Emerson has sparked his Trojans to 40 points per game.
Clark has thrown for close to 700 yards and is coming off a gem against Scarborough in which he completed 30 of 46 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns. Keegan Cyr caught 13 passes for 205 yards, but injured his knee late in the game.
Clark’s sophomore brother, Landon, snared five passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Joey Morrison has rushed for 460 yards on 53 carries so far and he caught seven passes for 89 yards against Scarborough including one for a touchdown. He also ran for one in the win.
The Bangor passing attack will be bolstered by the return of several receivers from quarantine in the likes of Colton Emerson, Jackson Vorenkamp, twins Ben and Brayden Caron, and Cabryn Streams.
Vorenkamp and Colton Emerson will also strengthen the Ram defense at end and linebacker, respectively. Linebackers Kevin Grover and Yedi Moneke have been among the key components on defense.
Thornton Academy’s Jack Emerson scored four touchdowns and ran for 92 yards in the Trojans’ most competitive game, a come-from-behind 33-17 win over Class B power Marshwood of South Berwick.
Alex St. John and Hayden Whitney are among the stable of running backs and linebacker Cody Ruff anchors the defense.
Thornton Academy has won four of the last eight Class A state championships.
“Thornton is a well-coached team with good players. They don’t beat themselves. They capitalize on your mistakes,” Morris said. “We’re going to have to control the clock, balance the running game and the passing game and play solid defense.”
Among other games, 0-1 Bucksport, which hasn’t played since losing to Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale 41-20 on Sept. 3, will host 0-2 John Bapst of Bangor on Friday night at 7 p.m.
COVID-19 forced Bucksport to cancel a game against Poland, and the team also had a bye week.
On Saturday, Hermon will make its long-awaited debut after having three games wiped out due to COVID cases. The Hawks will visit 1-2 Nokomis of Newport for a 1 p.m. game.
Also on Saturday, 0-3 Brewer will travel to take on 2-0 Windham. Kickoff is at noon.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Brayden Caron’s name.