WATERVILLE – The last time they played, the Purple Panthers needed five quarters to edge the Bangor Rams. Saturday afternoon, they only needed two for a resounding 31-0 Pine Tree Conference semifinal victory.
Waterville erupted for 14 points in the second quarter and 17 in the fourth during a punishing, 48-minute bare knuckle bash that left the third-seeded Rams more purple than the No. 2 Panthers.
“They outplayed us physically. They were stronger and better than us today,” said Bangor coach Gabby Price. “Football comes down generally to who’s the most physical team, and they were that today. My hat’s off to them.”
The 8-2 Panthers, who move on to face defending PTC champ Gardiner (9-1) at Hoch Field Friday night, simply dominated the Rams, who wind up 7-3. Consider the following:
Waterville held the Rams to 31 rushing yards in the second half and 105 total – the second-lowest total of the season for the PTC’s leading rushing offense, which was averaging 270.2 yards per game. The Rams’ total was also 83 below tailback Hampton Clarkson’s game average alone.
Speaking of Clarkson, the Fitzpatrick Trophy candidate was held under 100 yards (98) for the third game this season, two of them coming against Waterville.
The Rams, who came into the game leading the PTC in first downs (140), were held to six, none of which came in the second half.
The Panthers helped force five fumbles, four of which they recovered, an interception, and four other deflected passes that could easily have been interceptions.
Thanks largely to a game-opening, seven-minute drive, Bangor held a four-minute edge in time of possession (13:26 to 9:08) in the first half, but couldn’t crack the end zone. The second half was a complete reversal as the Panthers were on offense almost 19 minutes to Bangor’s 5:05.
Bangor had little success against Waterville’s physical “52” defense and “cover three” secondary alignment. Thanks in large part to the aggressive pursuit of defensive ends Roger Tevepaugh and Matt Gilley, Bangor had little success running outside. Waterville’s pass coverage left Bangor quarterback Joe Vanidestine with few options. “Last time we played, we tried to keep it a man-to-man defense, but this week coach told us `Don’t let anything get behind you. If anything gets behind you, you’re coming out,’ ” said quarterback-cornerback Dean Carpenter.
Meanwhile, Waterville’s offense was getting warmed up quickly. After getting two first downs on its initial series, the Panthers made it 7-0 with 9:52 left in the second quarter on fullback Chad Hart’s 31-yard run off an initial stop at the line of scrimmage and a second-effort burst through the middle.
Almost six minutes later, Tevepaugh (seven tackles, one sack) blocked a Rams’ punt from the B19. Two plays later, Carpenter hit Jake Johansmeier for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
After a scoreless third quarter in which both defenses held their own, disaster struck the Rams. Gilley (three tackles, two fumble recoveries) pounced on Clarkson’s fumble on 3rd-and-5 from the B20 and four plays later, Hart drilled a 22-yard field goal kick to make it 17-0 with seven minutes left to play.
Just 14 seconds later, Clarkson lost the handle again thanks to a wrenching hit from Lawson Doyle and Carpenter recovered it. The Panthers made it 24-0 with 3:33 left to play on a 14-yard TD strike from Carpenter to Tevepaugh.
“We don’t pass the ball a lot, but we pass it enough to keep teams off-balance and worry about it,” said Panthers coach Frank Knight, who is 6-1 in playoff games at Drummond Field. “We don’t have the most yards or attempts, but we have the best efficiency and that’s what you want.”
After a fumbled kickoff return gave the ball back to Waterville, the Panthers scored the final blow with six-play drive capped by a simple run off left tackle by Hart, who finished with 113 yards on 20 carries.
Purple Panthers 31, Rams 0
Bangor (7-3) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Waterville (8-2) 0 14 0 17 – 31
W – Hart 31 run (Hart kick)
W – Johansmeier 18 pass from Carpenter (Hart kick)
W – Hart 22 field goal
W – Tevepaugh 14 pass from Carpenter (Hart kick)
W – Hart 8 run (Hart kick)
First downs 6 13 Rushing att. – yds 32-105 46-193 Passing cmp. – att. 2-13 3-8 Yards passing 18 47 Total yards 117 240 Intercepted by 1 1 Punts – avg. 4-28.0 3-27.7 Fumbles – lost 5-4 3-1 Penalties – yds 5-33 1-5
RUSHING – Bangor: Clarkson 23-98, Kane 7-16, McAuliffe 1-5, Vanidestine 1-(-14); Waterville: Hart 20-113, DeGuzman 19-78, Johansmeier 2-10, Carpenter 5-(-8)
PASSING – Bangor: Vanidestine 2-12-1-18, Clarkson 0-1-0-0; Waterville: Carpenter 3-8-1-47
RECEIVING – Bangor: DeVeau 1-10, Bradford 1-8; Waterville: Johansmeier 1-18, Gilley 1-16, Owens 1-13