The high school football season is in a sense concise. Only eight games decide which teams continue their quest for gold and which squads pack up the gear awaiting the next campaign. Conversely, the gridiron march can be a long, arduous journey, one filled with many obstacles and pitfalls along the way. Conventional wisdom is often turned on its proverbial ear. What we thought we knew, what was a surety in August is no longer so.
This season, like many others, is no different. The pundits and prognosticators, self included, have been treated to the unexpected. A prime example is Class A football. Most not only had Windham and Thornton penciled in to play at Fitzpatrick Stadium the Saturday before Thanksgiving, it was etched in stone. Now, this may still very well happen, however, their journeys have some Battle of First Bull Run mixed in more so than what resembles Sherman’s March to the Sea.
You see, depth has developed in the A ranks which few saw coming before the first football was kicked off for the season. In the case of Windham, injuries have to some extent grounded the soaring Eagles. While Windham is deep, losing their top returning tailback, Dylan Koza, as well as one of their best receivers and defensive backs, Eric Webb, is tough for any team to overcome.
Portland has emerged as a serious challenger to Windham, having knocked off the Eagles in week 3. The Bulldogs aren’t flashy, just brutally efficient. Ground and pound is their game, led by senior tailback Joe Esposito and fullback George Chaison-Lapine, who sat out this week’s game with Lewiston due to injury.
Cheverus has come on as the season’s progressed following a 57-0 week two thumping at Thornton. The Stags currently sit at 4-2, yet their most impressive performance may have come in their week 5 loss at Portland where they went toe to toe with the Bulldogs before coming up short, 16-14. John Wolfgram’s teams seem to peak late and will a tough out come play-off time. A good barometer as to where they’re at will come over the final two regular season games when they play host to Scarborough and finish at Windham.
Thornton, like Windham, has found some company near the top of class A. That 57-0 rout of Cheverus cemented in most minds they will be playing on gold ball Saturday. I think they still will, however, their primary obstacle for getting there comes from a very improbable source based on the first two weeks of the season. The Bonny Eagle Scots have rebounded impressively from an 0-2 start to reel off four straight victories, none more impressive than their 33-13 dominance of Windham Friday night. This same Windham club previously had knocked off Thornton from the unbeaten ranks by a 24-14 score in week 4.
Parity is dead is high school football, right? Despite all the hand-wringing that occurs every weekend when you see games decided well before halftime, this season has also produced plenty of exciting action. By the way, there have always been teams each year who have been on the wrong end of lopsided scores. We someone act like this is a new phenomenon, but that’s a topic for another column, I guess.
Competitive balance has certainly been on display in both Class B divisions. In the northern division, any one of the six teams who make the play-offs have a legitimate shot on a given night to knock off a higher seed. While Brunswick was the preseason favorite by many, Brewer’s win over the Dragons Friday night certainly served notice the Witches are indeed contenders. Brunswick suffered a key loss with their key running back, Will Bessey, going down in the third quarter of that game. His status will be crucial in the Dragons run the rest of the way.
The same can be said for class B south. Traditional football powers Marshwood, Leavitt, and Biddeford are all in the mix of contenders. However, it’s Falmouth, a longtime soccer power, that is the lone undefeated in the division. This also debunks another held belief by many. Soccer and football can co-exist and be successful. This is particularly evident in class C where undefeated Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth meet this Friday night. While Winslow is known primarily for their football program, they have also developed a very good soccer program.
Class D has held true to form thus far. MCI and Oak Hill have both gone undefeated although Oak Hill has faced the more rugged schedule in D South. Having seen both of these clubs play, if, and I truly mean if, these teams should play for the gold ball it should be one heck of a game, a toss-up really. But when it comes to high school sports, we’ve learned what happens with conventional wisdom, right?