High School Football Opens with Exhibition Games this Weekend

Ah fall!  As a student I always enjoyed the summers off with school out of session and the free time that came with it.  Progressing through my adult years, autumn has become my favorite season.  The cool, crisp days, the changing of colors that accompany the season, and of course, football.

Football, more than any other sport, is an event in many  communities.  After all, teams play only once a week, the games are played on Friday nights or Saturday, times when the majority of residents can attend.  In addition to the main attraction on the field, several side games will be taking place by area youngsters in strips of grass off to the side.  Spectators will be clad in short sleeves and shorts as the season begins.  The first couple regular season games might involve a light jacket and pants.  Before state championship weekend, the heavy winter parka will come out of the closet along will many other layers of warm clothes.

Welcome back to high school football in Maine where this scenario will play out in locales from Kittery to this year Houlton, from Bethel to East Machias.  There are sure to be thrilling moments for the next thirteen Fridays and Saturdays.

This weekend teams throughout the state will play in exhibition contests, tuning up for their opener.  Some squads will use the games as an opportunity to evaluate personnel, giving multiple players a chance to see some time.  Others, perhaps will treat their contest as a regular season game, pulling out all stops in an effort to win.

The later will most likely be the case when Bangor travels to Fairfield Friday night to face old Pine Tree Conference rival Lawrence.  Kickoff at Keyes Field at Pete Cooper Stadium is set for 7:00.  By the way, is there a better setting or a better way to start the 2014 high school football season than at Keyes Field?  Before a clash between the Rams and Bulldogs a few years back, Bangor football coach Mark Hackett called Keyes Field the Bangor Auditorium of Maine high school football.

No track, fans pull their cars up near the end zone long before game time.  In the bleachers you are close enough to the field to hear the pads pop.  Of all the venues I’ve seen football in Maine, Keyes Field at Pete Cooper Stadium is right up near the top of my list.

Lawrence has had the upper hand, winning 11 of the last 12 meetings between the two schools, dating back to 2005 when John Hersom took over at the helm of the Bulldogs.  During that period, Bangor and Lawrence have met in three Eastern Maine championship games with the Bulldogs winning all three match-ups.  This marks the second straight year these teams have met in the preseason, since the Maine Principals’ Association reclassified football into four classes last fall.

Both teams look to be markedly improved this year, with Bangor coming off a 5-5 season a year ago and Lawrence going 2-6 and missing the playoffs.  The Rams return four starting offensive linemen and should be stout on defense.  D.J. Johnson should carry the load for the offense, being a 30-35 carry a game back, having been utilized at fullback a year ago.

Kudos go out to everyone at Nokomis and John Bapst High Schools for their efforts in coordinating the second “Mrs. O Bowl”.  As was reported by the Bangor Daily News’ Ernie Clark, the game is designed to build awareness of and to raise funds in the fight to defeat Multiple Sclerosis.  The two coaches in this contest, Matt O’Connell of Nokomis and his older brother Dan O’Connell at John Bapst have a personal connection as their mother, Barbara O’Connell has battled this disease for the better part of the last thirty years.  Kick-off is set for 7:00 Saturday night at Husson University in Bangor.

Are you ready for some football?

Bob Beatham

About Bob Beatham

Bob, a lifelong Bangor resident, has just completed his 21st season as the Public Address Announcer at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Bob is also the public address voice for John Bapst Crusader football. He also currently serves as the scorekeeper for John Bapst basketball. Bob is an avid follower of Maine high school athletics, particularly football and basketball. The University of Maine at Farmington graduate is the service coordinator at Aging Excellence, which provides in-home care for seniors..