Thoughts on the Weekend - Week Eleven

November 12, 2017

Thoughts on the weekend

- So here we are. After two weeks of pre-season that began on August 14th. The start of the regular season on September 1st. Eight weeks of the regular season that was full of memories. Regional quarterfinals on October 27th and 28th. Regional semifinals on November 3rd and 4th. And the regional finals that just passed us by.

- The magical playoff ride of the Portland Bulldogs came to an abrupt end in Windham as the home-standing Eagles won the Class A North regional final 42-6. One reason for the dominance was a Windham defense that held the Bulldogs to just 15 plays and one first down in the first half. Another reason might have been the circumstances of the Eagles first drive. They went 79 yards on just three plays, operating while the scoreboard was non-functioning due to frozen controls. The Eagles had leads of 29-0 at halftime and 42-0 at the end of the third quarter.

- This was Windham’s fourth consecutive trip to a regional final. In the two previous trips to the regional finals, the Eagles lost to Portland in Portland. Friday represented Windham’s second most points scored in a game and second largest margin of victory since their October 20th 48-6 win against Bangor. The last time Windham defeated Portland in the playoffs was in 2014 when they won in the Northern Class A regional semifinals by a score of 21-17.

- Since the early successes of the Scarborough Red Storm program in the late 90s, the Red Storm have been striving to return to the football promised land since their 14-12 2002 Class B state championship victory over Belfast. And Scarborough has gotten one step closer to that goal with a 49-7 win over Thornton Academy in the Southern Class A regional final on Friday. They achieved that win by a reverse of their struggles on September 15th against the Golden Trojans, where they turned the ball over three times and gave up 94 yards in penalties. Keeping the ball out of the wind by relying upon the running game, Scarborough ran for 260 yards as part of their 28-0 halftime lead. By the end of the game they racked up 350 yards, all but 23 of them being on the ground. Thornton Academy meanwhile just wasn’t able to get their offense on track. They only mustered 22 yards in the first quarter, a little over 40 yards at halftime, and 90 yards by the end of the game.

- Of the 14 teams in Class A, Scarborough was the only team to have not appeared in a Class A state championship game. Scarborough is 2-16 all time against Thornton Academy, but those two wins happened in this year's and last year’s playoffs. Scarborough last won seven straight games in 2010. Thornton Academy has appeared in six of the last seven regional finals.

- Although Scarborough has a very short history against Windham, they have defeated the Eagles in all of their previous meetings; 21-6 in the 2011 regular season, 27-12 in the 2012 regular season, and 66-7 earlier this season. They have never met in the playoffs.

- The Skowhegan Indians want you to know that they can play defense. On the field they have been proving it. They held Brewer to just 13 points a week ago. On Friday, they shut out the Lawrence Bulldogs on a 23-0 win at a bitterly frigid Reginald Clark Memorial Field. Despite the close 7-0 lead at the half, Skowhegan wouldn’t let it finish close as they scored a touchdown and recorded a safety in the third quarter to extend their lead to 16-0. On the other side of the ball they held one of Class B’s top running backs in Isaiah Schooler to just six yards. Skowhegan quarterback Marcus Christopher did what he’s been doing all season long by racking up some impressive yardage in the air by passing for 302 yards. Wide receiver Jon Bell was on the receiving end of 143 of those yards.

- The last time Skowhegan appeared in a regional final was 2008. That was also the last time they went to a state championship. Skowhegan has defeated Lawrence in their last four games. The last time Lawrence defeated Skowhegan was in 2012 (54-12 in week five). The Indians last won four games in a row in 2015. Prior to that, they had a four and six game winning streak in 2008.

- When you’re playing the Aaron Filieo-coached Cape Elizabeth team, you know to expect a swarming, in-your-face defense. That’s why they have allowed an average of a little over eight points a game going back to the start of 2016. And that defense came out in full force after they went up 21-0 against the Gardiner Tigers with 8:16 remaining in the half.  They forced four fumbles and picked off a pass in the second half, part of an effort that limited the Tigers to only 99 total yards in the entire game. On the artificial turf and with a first quarter wind to their back, Cape Elizabeth was put onto the back of running back Ryan Weare, who ran for an impressive 169 yards and three of the Capers four touchdowns. Gardiner’s lone touchdown came on the opening drive of the second half following a 65-yard kickoff return, but other than that it just wasn’t working for the Tigers as drive-killing fumbles were their undoing.

- Despite Cape Elizabeth making the playoffs every year since 2009 and having a winning record in seven of those eight years, this is just the second time they’ve made it to the regional finals and only their first trip to state since 2009. Prior to this season, Cape Elizabeth and Gardiner had never played a game against each other. This is the farthest that Gardiner has gone in the playoffs since 2010, when they lost 27-7 to Leavitt in the Eastern Class B regional final.

- Prior to the four-class realignment, Foxcroft Academy was the most successful Little Ten Conference team going back to 2004. In those nine years no team went to more regional finals (six), appeared in state championships (four), or won state titles (2) than the Ponies. And Foxcroft Academy proved their worth this season and continued with their tradition of LTC dominance. They had the top-scoring offense in all of Class D, the best defense in Northern Class D, and the fourth-ranked defense in all of Class D. They also went 6-0 in conference play. So the question was going to be if the Ponies were due for a battle, or if they would extend their defensive shutout run into a third game. Not only did it extend into the game, it went through the entire game. And that offense, they paced the Ponies into a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Every time Bucksport tried to get back into the game, the defense shut them down (as evidence by four interceptions, one fumble, and a blocked punt) while the offense punished them further.

- Foxcroft Academy has not allowed a point in 146 minutes and 59 seconds of play, the longest such streak of any team in Maine this year. This is the longest shutout streak in the LTC since the 2012 Ponies shut out opponents in five consecutive games. This is the longest streak in Maine since 2015 when Portland had around 187 minutes of shutout football. The last time Bucksport defeated Foxcroft Academy was in the 2012 regular season. Foxcroft Academy would avenge the loss in the playoffs that season.

- Our hats off to Boothbay on their 20-14 victory over Maranacook on Friday to capture the Class E title. At one point the Black Bears led 14-6, before the Seahawks scored twice to cap the undefeated 10-0 season and the class championship, despite it not being recognized by a Gold Ball from the MPA. The Seahawks had their most wins in a season going back to back to 2004, their first football title appearance since 2007, and their first football trophy since winning the 2002 Class C state championship with a 25-20 win against Foxcroft Academy.

- The Marshwood versus Falmouth regional final was one where both teams had a lead at one point or another. A game where both teams had a chance to put it away for their respect side and community. And it was clinched with a climatic Drew Gregor strip sack that preserved the Hawks victory and sealed the Yachtsmen's fate. The game for the most part was a back-and-forth contest. For the first three quarters the Hawks and Yachtsmen exchanged touchdowns. The wrinkle in play happened when Jack Walker was unable to convert a point after try following Falmouth’s third touchdown. Max Horton would catch a 35-yard scoring pass from Tommy Springer and then would convert the PAT to give Marshwood the one-point lead going into the fourth quarter. A Falmouth fumble in the fourth quarter quickly put the ball back in Marshwood’s hands and they would take advantage of the opportunity with another seven points and a 28-20 lead. Five minutes later though, Falmouth came firing back with a touchdown and a successful two-point run by quarterback Jack Bryant to tie the game 28-28 with 5:49 remaining. The Hawks didn’t rest on their laurels though once they got the ball back. On the second play of the next drive, Jayke Longarini took a pitch from back-up quarterback Connor Cavalry and instead lobbed a 47-yard toss to Kyle Glidden. Unable to move any closer to goal, Max Horton would kick the 23-yard field goal successfully through the uprights to give Marshwood a 31-28 lead with 1:19 remaining. Taking advantage of a short Marshwood kick, Jack Bryant quickly moved Falmouth downfield on three quick plays to the Marshwood 10 yard line. Pressured out of the pocket, Jack rolled to his left and tried to release the ball before being brought down by lineman Drew Gregor. There was a debate by the Falmouth sideline that Jack had either released the ball in a passing motion or was down on the ground, but the referee ruled it was a fumble. The Hawks recovered and killed the remaining time off the clock for the Southern Class B regional final victory.

- Marshwood has won their last four games against Falmouth. The Hawks are 6-2 all time against the Yachtsmen. This is Marshwood’s fifth regional appearance and fourth trip to state in the last six years. There is a state championship history between these two teams. The Hawks and Indians met back in the 1989 Class A state championship. Marshwood won the game 26-14. That year was Marshwood’s first year in Class A and the last state title won by Maine coaching legend Rod Wotton.

- The size of the fight in the dogs from Pittsfield, aka the Maine Central Institute Huskies was such that they weren’t going to be denied in Saturday’s game against the home standing and top-ranked Mount Desert Island Trojans. Having knocked off #3 Nokomis in the regional quarterfinals and #2 Winslow in the regional semifinals, MCI was once again the underdog. They also went down early as Mount Desert Island’s Colby Lee broke away on an 80-yard run to paydirt to put the Trojans up 6-0 with 5:49 left in the first quarter. MCI would respond on the following drive as quarterback Ryan Friend completed five short passes to his wideouts before hitting Pedro Matos for completion number six and a Huskies touchdown. Once the PAT was kicked by Devon Varney, Maine Central Institute did not look back. Seth Bussell’s one-yard scamper early in the second quarter to increase that lead to 14-6. That lead went up by six more points as Adam Bertrand scored on his own one-yard run. On the other side of the ball MDI just wasn’t able to get their dominating offense on track. Quarterback Andrew Phelps was sacked five times and had a last-gasp drive ended by an Adam Bertrand interception. He’d score a second touchdown in the final minutes of the game, adding up to the unexpected Maine Central Institute 27-6 win.

- Since the start of our records in 2004, MCI is the lowest ranked team (#6) to make it to a state championship game. Although not confirmed, they would be the lowest ranked football team to go to state since number six Sanford went to and won the Class A state final in 1998, according to Bob Beatham Jr. By appearing in their fourth consecutive state championship game, Maine Central Institute joins Winslow (2012-2015), Stearns (1991-1995), Madison (1986-1989), Lawrence (1983-1986), Marshwood (1983-1986), and Orono (1979-1982) as the only teams to go to state in back-to-back-to-back-to-back years during the playoff era. Madison is the only other team to have done it in two different classes. This will be the second ever meeting between Cape Elizabeth and Maine Central Institute in football. The first ever game was on September 22nd of this year, the Capers won 35-15.  The 27 points was the most allowed by Mount Desert Island since a 40-20 loss to Winslow on September 21st, 2016.

- Of the 16 teams coming into the regional finals, nobody had allowed fewer points than Wells’ 74. And they have achieved that by taking teams out of their elements, taking away the strongest part of their game, and forcing opponents beat them with everything else. Saturday’s 34-12 win over Madison was one of those contests. Possessing a very good, albeit underrated running back, Madison’s rushing attach was limited to just 8 yards by a smothering Wells defense. Madison quarterback Evan Bess was able to pass for 213 yards, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to do much with that yardage. Of their three first half drives that got past the 50, Madison went four-and-out of two of them while punting on their third. The score looked close at the start of the third quarter as Madison capitalized on a Wells fumble and capitalized on a 47-yard Sean Whalen reception for a touchdown, but Madison would get no closer than the 14-6 gap. On the other side of play, Wells’ running back Nolan Potter put on a showcase with a 138 yard pound on 23 carries, with four of those attempts going for touchdowns. And that was only a portion of the 296 yards that Wells ran for on the day.

- The 12 points allowed was the most by Wells since they gave up 21 in back-to-back weeks at the end of September. They have not lost in the playoffs since Yarmouth beat them 17-14 on November 14th, 2015. The Warriors have now appeared in four consecutive regional finals. As we mentioned last week, this was the Bulldogs first regional final since 1994. This is the first time these two teams have ever played in a regular season or playoff game.

- There were regular season match-ups in three of the four state championship games. Windham hosted Scarborough on October 6th, Skowhegan hosted Marshwood on September 1st, and Cape Elizabeth hosted Maine Central Institute on September 22nd. Wells did not play Foxcroft Academy during the regular season.

- Defending regional champions in the state finals has been a bit of a theme since the move to four classes. However, since 2013 this is the fewest number of defending regional champs (two - Maine Central Institute and Wells) in the past five years. In 2013, Winslow was the only returning regional champ.

- Despite playing just ten games, Scarborough has scored more points than any other team that will be appearing in the state championships - 483 points. That’s the most since the 2015 Maine Central Institute Huskies, who had 486 points scored by this time.

- Quote of the week
"You can make all the adjustments in the world. You can scheme all you want. It comes down to who is going to block and tackle better. That’s what we did."
Tim Roche, Wells head coach

- Unbeaten tracker 
The longest active winning streak belongs to Wells - 15 consecutive wins

- Other noteworthy active winning streaks
Marshwood - 11 consecutive wins
Boothbay - 10 consecutive wins
Scarborough - 7 consecutive wins
Cape Elizabeth - 5 consecutive wins

- We’ll be posting times for the Saturday games when they are announced by the Maine Principals Association on Monday. Here is the known information.

Harold Alfond Sports Stadium at University of Maine, Orono
Class C state championship, 7 pm
Maine Central Institute Huskies(home) vs Cape Elizabeth Capers

Fitzpatrick Stadium, Portland
Class A state championship, 11:06 am
Windham Eagles(home) vs Scarborough Red Storm

Class D state championship, time TBA
Foxcroft Academy Ponies(home) vs Wells Warriors

Class B state championship, time TBA
Marshwood Hawks(home) vs Skowhegan Indians