Thoughts on the Weekend - Week Ten

November 5, 2017

Thoughts on the weekend

- So what is there to be made of this semifinal weekend? Some of these games went as we foresaw, and the really good teams did what was expected of them. But, we’ll admit there were quite a few results that even we wouldn’t have foretold.

- The Portland Bulldogs are the quintessential Cinderella team in these playoffs. A 2-6 team were still dancing after their 21-6 quarterfinal victory against Oxford Hills. They came into second ranked Lewiston against a Blue Devils team that they had defeated three weeks prior by an overtime final score of 17-14. But the Bulldogs surged into the third quarter with a 13-0 lead in an opening 36 minutes that featured plenty of turnovers and punts. Lewiston’s first points of the night only happened 54 seconds into the fourth quarter when Blue Devils running back Garrett Poussard punctuated a drive with a 9-yard touchdown run. But Portland matched that score two and a half minutes later when Terion Moss finished off a drive he almost completed during the previous play with a 24-yard touchdown run for his third score of the evening. Lewiston went on a time-consuming drive that ate 5:08 off the fourth quarter clock before Garrett scored his second of the evening. At this point the Blue Devils were down by seven points, 20-13. But Terion would break the hearts of the Lewiston faithful at Garcelon Field when he found space for a 50-yard touchdown run with 1:55 remaining in what would be enough to put the surprise Portland Bulldogs into the regional finals.

- Since starting the season 0-5, the Bulldogs have won four of their last five games. And that renaissance is attributes in no small part to their recently established quarterback Terion Moss. Since being installed as the full-time quarterback during week seven, he has thrown for 163 yards and six touchdowns while running for 555 yards and four touchdowns and a 3-1 record at the helm of the Portland offense.

- Next week’s Southern Class A regional final is going to be a role-reversal of sorts for the Scarborough Red Storm and the Thornton Academy Golden Trojans, if we compare it to the 2016 Class A South semifinal game. This year Scarborough is the home field team, whereas last year the Saturday afternoon game was at Hill Stadium at the Thornton Academy campus. Scarborough came into the game last year as the underdog, while in some circles it is Thornton Academy that is viewed as the underdog.

- But like last year, look for Scarborough senior quarterback Zoltan Panyi to figure prominently in the result of this year’s regional final. The Red Storm’s signal caller had a combined 223 yards of offense and five touchdowns to help lead his team in a 53-15 win against Sanford.

- When Edward Little Red Eddies coaches, players, and fans look back at the game, they’ll see how tantalizingly close they came to tying Windham in the fourth quarter were it not for two penalties. Edward Little quarterback Grant Hartley had found the end zone on a seven-yard run that brought the Red Eddies to within two points, 14-12. But as they lined up for the two-point conversion they took an ill-timed delay of game penalty that moved them back five yards. Grant’s pass on the play went incomplete. Edward Little went for an onside kick but Windham recovered. Despite going three-and-out on their drive, the punt was downed at the Red Eddies 2 yard line with 3:11 remaining. They moved 37 yards forward on their next ten plays. But a completed pass around midfield was wiped off the board due to an ineligible receiver downfield penalty. On the next play Eagles defender Hunter Coffin picked off a Grant Hartley pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 23 seconds remaining. The extra point was good and Windham walked out of Walton Field in Auburn with the 21-12 victory.

- This will be the third consecutive year that Portland and Windham will meet in the Class A North regional final. Previously, both games were in Portland and the Bulldogs beat the Eagles in both games.

- The Marshwood Hawks had made plenty of statements this season. They added one more notch to that statement list with their 45-19 win over Greely. This was the same Greely team that posted a 7-0 shutout win over Biddeford the previous week. The Hawks were up 21-7 at the end of the first quarter as Joe Taran ran in two runs for touchdowns while Kyle Glidden had a run for a touchdown. The two Marshwood backs combined for 221 rushing yards on just 17 carries - Joe had just four runs but amassed 110 yards, with an interception return for a touchdown.

- Lawrence defeating Brunswick on Friday could almost be viewed as the passing of the torch in Northern Class B. The Dragons have thrice represented the conference at the state championship. And it is fitting that the sixth-seeded team wouldn’t give up that mantle without a fight to the finish in their 17-12 loss to the Bulldogs at Keyes Field. Down 17-0 after the first drive of the second half, the Dragons got touchdowns from Owen Richardson and Dalton Dickey with less than five minutes in the game. They also forced Lawrence into two punts. But with 1:19 remaining and 55 yards to go, the Bulldogs defense won out after Brunswick was unable to pick up a first down. This is Lawrence’s first regional final since 2014, when they lost 48-19 to Brunswick. Brunswick’s streak of four regional final appearances ends.

- Last week we pointed out the strange point conundrum that is the Skowhegan Indians. The first place team has been an offensive juggernaut this season. But in terms of defense, they came in ranked 71st in the state in terms of points allowed. That is a mark that we haven’t seen going back to our records starting in 2004. And that would be tested in their regional semifinal showdown against Brewer. But when it was all said and done, the major contributor in the game wasn’t the highly touted quarterback Marcus Christopher. It was wide receiver / defensive back Jon Bell that was the difference maker. To be more specific, the third quarter difference maker. In those 12 minutes he had a 66-yard catch and run for a touchdown, he caught up to and brought down Brewer’s Bryant Kiley to deny a long touchdown run, picked off Cody Wood on the following play to deny a touchdown pass, had another interception later in the quarter, and then caught a 30-yard touchdown pass. The effort denied Brewer a 10-0 lead and put the Indians up 12-10. Marcus Christopher would score on a 14-yard touchdown run during the final quarter to put Skowhegan into their first regional final since 2008.

- Don’t judge the final result by the records of the teams coming in. Don’t assume that the regular season meeting will repeat itself in the game. And do not think that the opening play will always decide the fate of the rest of the game. If that were to have happened, Falmouth might have been given a more than a passing chuckle of defeating Kennebunk. And Falmouth wouldn’t have been written off after they fumbled the opening kickoff. So how exactly did the Yachtsmen win? Kennebunk had more yards of offense (by 75 yards), they had more offensive plays (by more than a two-to-one margin), and had more possession (by more than a two-to-one margin). With their backs against the walls, Falmouth denied the Rams’ of points on five of eight drives that got into the Yachtsmen’s half of the field. They also immediately made Kennebunk pay with six scoring runs, catches, and interceptions of more than 50 yards a pop.

- This is the second time that Falmouth has made it to the regional finals. They last did so in 2015 when they hosted Marshwood. They lost that contest 48-22 and the Hawks went on to win the Class B state championship.

- A diverse offense is often one of the prerequisites for a state championship. So if a team that relies on an open and fluid offense cannot get it done, brute power on the ground can be called upon. And it was Cape Elizabeth running back Ryan Weare that got the call for the Capers. With the game tied 0-0 in the second quarterback, Ryan got the ball once, twice, three times, and so-on and so forth until he punctuated a 61-yard drive with a three-yard score. He handled the ball on all eleven plays on the drive. As Capers head coach Aaron Filieo was quoted after the game by the Press Herald, “Before (the scoring) drive, Coach Piper said we’ve taken our shots in the passing game, (let’s) now keep it on the ground and let Ryan do his thing,” Ryan ran the ball 39 times and also helped set up the drive which led to an Andrew Hartel to Jacob Brydson scoring strike in the fourth quarter. The 14-0 win was Aaron’s 100th career coaching victory, and Cape Elizabeth’s sixth regional final appearance in their program’s history.

- The Fryeburg Academy Raiders, for as strong as they played all season, came undone by a whole host of mistakes during the game. They committed nine penalties, threw two interceptions, managed to recover three of their four fumbles but lost the fourth fumble on a snap that went over the quarterbacks head while in the Cape Elizabeth red zone.

- The Gardiner Tigers did not get a lot of respect throughout the season. They became the poster child for Heal Point complaints as they ranked in the top half of Southern Class C despite having a losing record and were outscored 73 to 136. But starting with their 32-20 victory over Freeport on October 14th, Gardiner reversed their five-game losing skid. The next week they defeated century-old rival Cony in overtime to secure a fourth place finish. The 3-5 Tigers had a quarterfinal showdown at 6-2 Morse in Bath. And they won that game 13-8. This set up a showdown with top-seeded Leavitt. Although the game wasn’t the offensive onslaught that Leavitt was expected to execute, rather it was a defensive slugfest similar to what Gardiner had engineered in their past two games. And the scoring drive had all the makings of a storybook finish. Leavitt scored but missed the extra point while only having ten men on the field. On the Gardiner response they gain 15 additional yards on their return following an illegal hit to the head penalty against Leavitt. Two plays later a defensive pass interference penalty pushed the Tigers up to Leavitt’s 30. At the next play, Gardiner running back Collin Foye took the handoff, went left, got a block, and ran the entire 30 yards for a touchdown. The Tigers successfully kicked the extra point and were up 7-6 with just two minutes remaining. Leavitt meanwhile committed two more costly penalties on the next drive and their final drive comeback bid came to a painful finish.

- "These guys have been down so many times this season, especially the seniors. These guys have gone through some amazing adversity. Being down six to nothing after a slugfest with the best team in the conference really shows a lot of grit out there from our leaders and I’m just really proud of the way they played tonight."
Joe White, Gardiner head coach

- The win is Gardiner’s first victory over Leavitt since 2007, and they first regional final appearance since 2010.

- Last year Mount Desert Island went into the Northern Class C regional final the surprise entry. They hosted the final against Winslow based on having the better Crabtree Ranking, but were by no means the favorite in that game. The Trojans exemplified ball-control offense with a 12-7 win against the Black Raiders. This year they had lofty predictions heaved upon them and they have lived up to each and every one of those expectations. In addition to their defense that has gotten it done game in and game out, the highest scoring offense in all of Class C was part of that decisive advantage. During their nine-game winning streak they have outscored their opposition by 14 or more points in eight of those games.

- With the loss, we watched the final game of Oceanside senior Michael Norton Jr’s high school football career. Focusing on this season, it has certainly been a season to remember for the Mariners running back and defensive back who wears the #2. He finished his senior season with 30 touchdowns; 24 on the ground, three receptions, two kick returns, and a fumble recovery. He finished the season with around 1,600 rushing yards.

- The Carmichael family has a long and storied history in the Bucksport football history. Of course you may best be familiar with that name as the namesake of Carmichael Field, the multi-use field at the top of the hill in the community. This season saw another Carmichael add to the football legacy of the family in Bucksport. Quarterback Chase Carmichael set a new LTC record for single-season passing yards with 1,573. He hasn’t gotten the coverage deserving of a quarterback that has a 60% completion percentage for the second place Golden Bucks team. But he proved his prowess during Bucksport’s 49-6 win against Mattanawcook Academy. He went 12-19 for 188 yards, threw three touchdowns, ran for a fourth score, and scored on a two-point conversion.

- The first decade of the 21st century belonged to Foxcroft Academy. They played in eight regional finals, went to state six times, and won the 2003 and 2007 Class C football title. And it seems appropriate that with the Ponies back in the LTC after a four-year absence, they would be competing once again for a regional title. And they are just as dominant now as they have been in the past. They led Class D in points scored and had allowed the fourth fewest points of the 20-team class. And they have outscored their opposition 80-0 in the past two games.

- It’s been a long time since the Madison Bulldogs have been in a regional final. 23 years, long before the Madison seniors were born. And they are slowly taking incremental steps towards the goal of their community’s first football Gold Ball since 1994. They made the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, they hosted a playoff game for a second consecutive year, and they earned their first playoff win in almost two decades. And for the first time since 1994, they’ll be appearing in a regional final.

- The Wells Warriors have been at the top of the hill all season long. And even with the bull’s-eye on their back, the Warriors have taken on all challengers. In fact, the toughest defense in all of Class D continues to keep opponents out of their end zones while repeatedly getting into those of their opponents. Since the start of October they have yet to allow double-digit points, outscoring the opposition 229 to 25.

- At the end of the 2016 regular season, Cape Elizabeth and Wells were ranked one - two in Maine in fewest points allowed. This year, Wells finished first overall and Cape Elizabeth finished third. Of the remaining teams in the playoffs, these two teams have still allowed less than 100 points after ten games.

- Bonny Eagle came in the odds-on favorite to win despite being the road team at the imposing Hill Stadium. Thornton Academy was forced to start their back-up quarterback in arguably their most important game of the season against a team that beat them 49-14 on October 30th. At the start of the second quarter, Thornton Academy had a 14-0 lead. One of those scores was on a CJ LeBreck pick-six for 45 yards. That interception was one of three thrown by Bonny Eagle quarterback Connor Sirois. The Scots fought back though despite the setbacks. In the third quarter they got themselves to within nine points, down 21-12. And in the fourth quarter they scored twice to narrow the deficit from 28-12 to 28-24. But that was as close as they could get as they missed on three point after tries, followed by the drive-ending interception by Thornton Academy defensive back Jordan Sharpe the gave TA the victory.

- Bonny Eagle last missed a regional final in 2012. Prior to missing the regional finals in 2016, Thornton Academy had appeared in five consecutive regional finals.

- The Maine Central Institute Huskies would like you to remember they’ve still got plenty more football in their legs following Saturday’s 43-42 win in Winslow against the higher ranked Black Raiders. And for those expecting a Winslow win, those expectations were likely nullified after the Huskies scored two quick touchdowns to turn a narrow 15-14 lead into a comfortable 29-14 edge at halftime. The quick touchdowns came through the hands and feet of Adam Bertrand. He ran in an eight-yard score, picked off a Winslow pass on their first play of the ensuing drive, and then caught a 23-yard reception for a touchdown on MCI’s second play of their drive. In the third quarter, Winslow put in two quick scores of their own as Ryan Fredette ran in a 33-yard touchdown run, Ben Dorval picked off a Huskies pass on their drive and returned it to the MCI 3, and Ryan scored a second touchdown. That narrows the MCI went to 29-26. The Huskies would extend that lead on a fake-punt turned pass to 36-29. With 7:20 remaining in the game, Winslow narrows that lead to 36-34 on a 60-yard touchdown reception by Tyler Crayton. MCI would go up with another touchdown to 43-34, and despite desperation score by Winslow with 18.9 seconds remaining the Huskies would recover the onside kick and kill out the clock for the upset victory.

- The loss snapped Winslow’s regional finals streak at five consecutive years. They last failed to make a regional final in 2011. Maine Central Institute will appear in their fourth consecutive regional final.

- Three teams named "Bulldogs" will appear in these regional finals; Portland, Lawrence, and Madison.

- Since the return of four classes in football, the lowest seeded team to get into the regional finals was the 2013 Dirigo Cougars. That year the Cougars were ranked fourth in Southern Class D. This year there will be two fourth-ranked teams and two sixth-ranked teams. Despite the entry of sixth-ranked Portland and Maine Central Institute in the regional finals, it is not without precedence.
2012 - sixth-place Waterville(4-4) advanced to the Eastern Class B regional finals.
2009 - seventh-ranked Yarmouth(6-2) advanced to the Western Class C regional finals.
2007 - sixth-ranked Marshwood(6-2) advanced to the Western Class A regional final.
2004 - fifth-ranked Bangor(7-1) hosted seventh-ranked Skowhegan(3-5) in the Eastern Class A regional final
2004 - sixth-ranked Portland(5-3) advanced to the Western Class A regional final.

- Here are your dates and times for the 2017 regional finals
Class A North - Portland at Windham, Friday at 6 pm
Class A South - Thornton Academy at Scarborough, Friday at 7 pm
Class B North - Lawrence at Skowhegan, Friday at 7 pm
Class B South - Falmouth at Marshwood, Saturday at 12:30 pm
Class C North - Maine Central Institute at Mount Desert Island, Saturday at 7 pm
Class C South - Gardiner at Cape Elizabeth, Friday at 7 pm
Class D North - Bucksport at Foxcroft Academy, Friday at 7 pm
Class D South - Madison at Wells, Saturday at 12:30 pm
Class E - Maranacook at Boothbay, Friday at 7 pm

- Quote of the week
"It’s a huge win, amazing win. Can’t even describe it."
Hunter Coffin, Windham running back

- Unbeaten tracker 
The longest active winning streak belongs to Wells - 14 consecutive wins

- Other noteworthy active winning streaks
Marshwood - 10 consecutive wins
Mount Desert Island - 9 consecutive wins
Madison - 6 consecutive wins
Scarborough - 6 consecutive wins
Bucksport - 5 consecutive wins

- Regular season meetings
Class A North - Portland at Windham; Windham won 7-6 on 9/23
Class A South - Thornton Academy at Scarborough; Thornton Academy won 32-28 on 9/15
Class B North - Lawrence at Skowhegan; Skowhegan won 58-56 on 10/13
Class B South - Falmouth at Marshwood; Marshwood won 42-19 on 10/6
Class C North - Maine Central Institute at Mount Desert Island; Mount Desert Island won 35-24 on 9/29
Class C South - Gardiner at Cape Elizabeth; Cape Elizabeth won 21-13 on 9/9
Class D North - Bucksport at Foxcroft Academy; Foxcroft Academy won 45-18 on 9/22
Class D South - Madison at Wells; Wells won 25-21 on 9/22
Class E - Maranacook at Boothbay; Boothbay won 13-6 on 9/22