It’s the only time of the season when everyone’s undefeated, each team is tied for the lead, and hope springs eternal. It’s opening night for the 1999 football season.
Several intriguing matchups dot the opening night schedule. Here’s a look at a few of them:
Lawrence at Bangor, Cameron Stadium, 7 p.m.
You can thank the offseason reworking of the traditional Pine Tree Conference schedule after Brewer dropped to Class B for an opening-week matchup between traditional powers like this.
“I think if we had had our druthers, we probably could have asked for somebody else the first week instead of them,” Bangor head coach Gabby Price jokingly said with a chuckle. “No, but it’s great to start the season and the kids are excited and ready to go.”
“It’s a great way to start the season, but quite truthfully, it doesn’t matter who we play,” Bishop said. “We’re a very confident team.”
The Bulldogs missed the playoffs for a second straight year last season, but with 21 starters back, are primed for a playoff run this year. Junior quarterback Barry Quirion is the lone new starter, but Bishop doesn’t consider him a weak link.
“Our quarterback last year was a great athlete playing quarterback, whereas Barry is a pure quarterback. That’s all he’s ever played,” said Bishop.
Bangor will counter with a more seasoned Joe Vanidestine at quarterback, whose offseason improvement has prompted Price to vow Bangor will be more offensively balanced between passing and the traditional running game.
The tables are turned in the backfield as Lawrence boasts returning tailback Troy Savage while Bangor will go with junior Justin Libbey, who has the unenviable task of taking over for graduated star back Hampton Clarkson.
Hampden Academy at Brewer, Doyle Field, 7 p.m.
The defending East Class B champs take on the new/old kid on the block as Brewer returns to B after a two-year fling in A. The Witches 0-18 mark the last two years isn’t fooling coach Bob Sinclair, whose Broncs were the last team Brewer beat (October, 1996).
“We’ve seen film of them and I think they’re a much better team than people think,” Sinclair said. “It’s not going to be very long before Brewer becomes a big factor in this league.”
Hampden has one of the more massive interior lines in Class B, but graduated its entire backfield. Brewer returns an experienced, aggressive defense which could take over a game, but must cultivate some confidence on offense.
Maine Central Institute at Bucksport, Carmichael Field, 7 p.m.
The visiting Huskies have taken square aim at the playoffs after barely missing them last year.
“Most of their offensive line is back and they have the best receiver in the league in Steve Allen,” said Bucks coach Joel Sankey.
It might be a developmental year for the Bucks, but a win would go a long way toward drastically speeding that development up.
“The winner of this game’s got a leg up on the playoffs. We told our kids this game is hugely important because our two teams may be in direct competition for a playoff spot,” Sankey said.
Offensively, tailback Ronnie Hutchins and fullback Rick McHale are the Bucks’ main men until a new QB develops.
Winslow at Belfast, 7 p.m.
The ninth game between these two LTC powers in five years may be as exciting as their last, a 27-21 semifinal playoff win by Belfast last November. The Lions come in with a four-game win streak over the Black Raiders, but Belfast coach Butch Arthers doesn’t think that statistic helps his team much.
“We’ll have to be on our game because I think Winslow once again will be one of the top teams in our conference,” Arthers said.
The Lions will be without two offensive linemen: sophomore guard Steve Johnson is out for the season as a precaution after suffering a bad concussion during the baseball season and senior tackle Josh Evans is out at least four weeks with a fractured ankle.
Old Town at Messalonskee, Memorial Field, Oakland, 7 p.m.
This game may be the Class B version of Bucksport-MCI: two legitimate playoff contenders trying to get a leg up on the ’99 race.
The Eagles’ backfield depth will be tested after Tony Harmon transferred to Waterville, but returning QB Dan Currier may throw more and keep teams from ganging up on the line.
Old Town should also be a good run-pass threat with fullback Chad Holmes, QB Keenan Goslin and split end Adam Cambridge.