BANGOR – On the surface, Friday’s Pine Tree Conference Class A football clash of the unbeatens between Bangor and Lawrence of Fairfield is a battle of offense against defense.
Bangor boasts the conference’s most prolific offense, averaging 33.4 points per game in its 5-0 start.
Lawrence has the league’s most resistant defense, allowing just two touchdowns – one on a returned fumble recovery – in its four victories.
But it’s really a matchup of teams with strengths on both sides of the line of scrimmage, meeting in a midseason clash that may lead to home-field advantage come playoff time.
Bangor has been considered by many the favorite in the PTC A ranks, and the Rams have done nothing to diminish that status. But Lawrence has emerged as the Rams’ chief challenger, with a chance to inherit the favorite’s role with a win when they meet in a 7 p.m. start at Cameron Stadium.
“They’ve very sound and playing with more emotion than any team I’ve seen in recent years,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett.
Lawrence, which won four Eastern Maine Class A titles and two state Class B crowns between 1980 and 1996, fell on several years of hard football times before using a come-from-behind 27-14 win over Bangor last year as a catalyst for a return to postseason play last fall – while paving the way for the Rams to miss the playoffs.
“We try not to put too much on one particular game,” said Lawrence coach John Hersom, whose team is coming off a bye week. “We try to remind the kids that even though it might be a big game it’s not the end of the world, it’s only one game in the season.
“But last year we were able to get over the hump against them, not having beaten Bangor in a number of years. It put us over the hump that way and helped us record-wide, and the kids really picked up some momentum.”
Defense indeed has been the catalyst for the Bulldogs this fall, with senior linebackers Jon Doyon and David Wallace playing pivotal roles.
“They complement each other very well,” said Hersom, “and we ask a lot of our defensive front to protect them.”
That front boasts a new look from last year in junior tackle Isaiah Underwood, who played primarily offense in 2005, senior linebacker-turned-nose guard Wayne Morrill and senior end-turned-tackle Bryan Slaney.
“The defense has been the big key for us the last few games,” said Hersom. “The way we’ve played defense we’ve been able to take some opportunities away from our opponents and make it difficult for them to run. By doing that we’ve helped set up our offense with good field position.”
Jack Hersom, son of the coach, handles the quarterbacking duties, with converted QB Aaron Champagne averaging nearly 100 rushing yards per game at tailback.
“Champagne is very good,” said Hackett. “He’s not as big as [Lewiston’s Jared] Turcotte, but he might be the second-best back in the league.”
Bangor, which has three seven-point wins this fall including a 22-15 victory at Messalonskee of Oakland last Friday night, counters with a multi-dimensional attack directed by Ian Edwards.
The junior QB has passed for seven TDs and averaged more than 28 yards on 15 completions. Senior wideout Tom Crews (8 catches, 249 yards) has been his favorite target, while 6-foot-6 Ryan Weston and 6-4 Alex Gallant provide two additional options at tight end.
Junior tailback Shane Walton has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of Bangor’s wins, and teams with fullback Kyle Vanidestine to give the Rams a formidable 1-2 rushing punch.
Bangor also boasts the league’s biggest line, led by tackles Robert Seccareccia and Adam Kearns.
“From the couple of times I’ve seen them on film, Bangor executes really well,” said Hersom. “The key for us defensively will be to execute well to take things away from them that they want to do.”