While those of us in the northeast begin to enjoy the anticipated warm weather, football league officials are finalizing schedules for the upcoming fall season. A few schools and conferences have prepared and released their calendars for the 2015 campaign. In perusing the Brewer Witches schedule for the fall, one intriguing contest sticks out in particular, a preseason encounter the last weekend of August at Bangor.
The cross-town rivals will meet for the first time since 2010 at Cameron Stadium. The two teams played to a scoreless first half stalemate that evening before Bangor pulled away for a 13-0 triumph in that final contest.
To say the Bangor-Brewer contest over the years has been a rivalry is akin to saying a hammer and nail are rivals. The two schools will battle for the 104th time this August with the Rams holding a commanding 75-20-8 advantage.
Many attempt to keep the embers smoldering of a rivalry that long ago has begun to flame out. 1980 was the last year of truly memorable games between the two programs, battling through two overtime contests that season. In essence you would have to be in your late forties or older to really appreciate the greatness of this match-up. This is not to say this game has meant nothing since then to all those who have participated in it. Of course it has. With the close proximity of the two communities, players and coaches are battling against acquaintances, friends, and foes alike.
The series took a seven-year hiatus following the 1980 season due to reclassification. Bangor would move on to Class AA, playing a similar schedule to what they play now, taking on many of the larger southern Maine schools. Brewer, on the other hand, played in Class A, also playing a similar schedule as today in the Pine Tree Conference.
When the state’s football classes were reduced from four to three in 1987, the rivalry was renewed. The novelty drew a large crowd at Doyle Field on a chilly Friday night in late September with Bangor rolling to a 43-12 victory. The two schools would compete against each other for the next three regular seasons before a classification shift moved Brewer to the Class B ranks for the fall of 1991.
For the next six seasons the game was played as a preseason exhibition contest. In the ’91 game at Doyle Field, Brewer picked up their only win of the series since 1977 with a 22-7 triumph. It was a beginning to a difficult season for Bangor, who went 1-8 through their schedule. Enter Gabby Price. Since then Bangor has completely dominated the series. Brewer reentered the Class A ranks for a two year stint in 1997 and 1998. The Rams rolled to 50-0 and 28-0 romps during those two seasons.
Following the 1998 season, the programs took a nine year break from facing each other. During that time frame, each squad found success in their respective classes. Bangor played in state championship contests in 2000, 2001, and 2004, winning in all in ’01. Brewer, on the other hand, struggled at first in class B before advancing to the regional final in 2004, winning gold in 2005.
The 2007 game not only marked the first time these schools would meet on the field in nine years, it was also the 100th Bangor-Brewer football game. Staff members and administrators alike put in extra work to make it a special night for the players and fans. Gridiron warriors from yesteryear lined the field prior to kickoff to commemorate history. The weatherman didn’t cooperate on this night as a steady rain prior to kick-off significantly cut down the attendance. Add to the fact both teams were having polar opposite seasons. Bangor would go on to battle Lawrence for the conference title, while Brewer was licking its wounds from a winless season. An Ian Edwards touchdown pass on a flea-flicker on the game’s opening play from scrimmage set the tone for a 63-6 Rams romp, in which they led 49-0 at halftime.
The two programs would meet again for the next three seasons before reclassification again would move the Witches to Class B.
Which brings us to this year’s edition of the Bangor-Brewer football game. Make no mistake: the rivalry will likely never be what it was during its glory years of the 1960’s through 1980. An era when men such as Ken Perrone, Gerry Hodge, and Gabby Price roamed the sidelines. This year’s game does have a bit of intrigue, however. New head coach, Alan Mosca will make his head coaching debut for the Rams, taking over for the retired Mark Hackett. Mosca competed as a lineman for the Rams in the late eighties, having played in a few Bangor-Brewer tilts.
For Brewer, the program made significant strides late season under their new coach, Nick Arthers. In year two they are looking to take that next step forward in the playoffs. The excitement for football in Brewer is justifiably palpable. Putting Bangor on the schedule makes a key statement to the players. It says to them “We believe in you and we are ready to compete at a high level”. Win or lose, this mindset can do nothing but help the program going forward.
The greater Bangor area has lacked a great football rivalry for a long time. While the game may not conjure up memories of yesteryear, here’s hoping both programs can be competitive for years to come. Hats off to both Bangor and Brewer for renewing this match-up. While we certainly don’t want to wish our precious summer away, there is something special about those crisp nights and afternoons when the boys of fall take to the fields of honor.