The 2014 Maine high school football season got off to an inauspicious start in week one for followers looking for competitive balance. As I mentioned previously, thirteen of the nineteen contests in Eastern Maine that week were decided by four touchdowns or more. After only one week of games the haves and have-nots were already divided into their respective clusters. Perusing through the slate of contests set for week two didn’t hold a lot of promise either, or so I originally thought.
Sports can sometimes produce drama when little is expected. The more we think we know can be turned completely upside down. Such was the case in week two. This past weekend three of the four defending state champions went down in defeat. A number of teams, coming off disappointing 2013 campaigns, turned in eye-popping performances last Friday night. The victors of these contests may or may not be deemed contenders for the titles in their respective classes. A number of teams did serve notice this will not be just a ho-hum season.
Starting in Brewer, the Witches stunned defending Class B state champion Cony in overtime 46-40. Brewer led the majority of the game and needed a defensive stand in overtime before scoring on their possession. This coming after a 1-7 2013 season with their only win coming at the hands of Gardiner, who went winless a year ago. Under first year head coach Nick Arthers, Brewer started the season with a 51-8 shellacking at Brunswick. Look for this victory to act as a springboard for better days ahead for Coach Arthers in Brewer.
Across the river at Husson University, the John Bapst Crusaders were playing their season opener. Due to an odd number of teams in the Little Ten Conference, John Bapst had a bye in the schedule a week ago. The Crusaders entered the contest coming off a 2-6 season a year ago, that coming on the heels of five regional title game appearances in six years. Their opponent, the Mattanawcook Lynx reached the regional final last season, losing to Bucksport in the title game.
The Lynx return the majority of their offensive and defensive lines from that squad as well as a number of key ball-carriers. Senior John Bapst tailback, Jackson Leonard didn’t have huge numbers on offense, he finished the night with 18 carries for 61 yards and caught 3 passes for 32 yards. He did make several big plays, however, including a 31-yard touchdown reception to close the first half to give the hosts a 12-0 advantage at the break.
Perhaps, his greatest contribution came on defense, where he was in on eight tackles, including one sack, and intercepted four passes. The final pick set up the game clinching touchdown with just over two minutes to play.
Football tradition runs deep in Fairfield. Boy, does it ever. The 2013 season was just a blip on the radar for a program that won back to back Pine Tree Conference titles, before last season’s reclassification. Or so was the theory, anyway. Smarting from a 2-6 season, the Bulldogs were resolved to get back to their contending ways in 2014. Reality quickly set in during their preseason home contest against the Bangor Rams. It wasn’t so much the 45-0 loss to Bangor that was so stunning, it was in the manner Bangor did it. Lawrence was physically man-handled in such a way few Bulldog faithful had been witnessed to. Follow that up the next week at Gardiner, which was a struggle for a half, and there was palpable cause for concern once again.
Lawrence got just what the doctor ordered Friday night in Fairfield, knocking off Mt. Blue 45-22. The Bulldogs got a measure of revenge in this one after falling 39-0 in Farmington a year ago.
Speaking of programs looking to take that next step, how about the Bangor Rams? Bangor, a combined 10-9 over the past two years, are looking like a contender in 2014. This year’s Ram squad might be the most physical Bangor team we’ve seen in a very long time. Nothing fancy, just who’s tougher than who football. Couple a big, powerful offensive line and punishing junior tailback Dane Johnson they will over-match most opponents. Throw in big senior fullback Langston Hamer-Nagle, who played on the line a year ago, and these Rams are more than a handful. Defensively, they swarm to the ball and don’t miss many tackles.
The biggest shocker from last weekend came in Western Maine Class A where South Portland knocked off the defending State Champion Bonny Eagle Scots 21-14. The win came on the heels of a 47-6 loss at Thornton Academy in week 1.
Can this Friday night come any faster?