BANGOR – Last year, Lawrence of Fairfield capitalized on Bangor mistakes to rally for a victory that helped announce the Bulldogs’ re-emergence among Class A football’s upper echelon.
This year, there’s no mistaking the Bulldogs’ defensive dominance.
Lawrence not only kept a Bangor offense that had averaged 33.4 points per game out of the end zone at Cameron Stadium on Friday night, the Bulldogs didn’t allow the Rams any closer than the 39-yard line while earning a hard-fought 3-0 Pine Tree Conference victory in a midseason football battle of unbeatens.
“We had two weeks to prepare for them,” said senior linebacker-fullback David Wallace, whose Lawrence team was coming off a bye. “We worked hard on the fundamentals the first week, and we got down to business the second week. We came prepared, and confident in our defense because defense is No. 1 with our team.”
The win leaves 5-0 Lawrence in strong position to earn the No. 1 seed for the PTC Class A playoffs, though games still remain against Mount Ararat of Topsham, Cony of Augusta and Messalonskee of Oakland.
Bangor (5-1) has its bye next week, then closes out the regular season at Mt. Blue of Farmington and home against Oxford Hills of South Paris before postseason play begins.
“If that’s [Lawrence] the best team, we’re only three points off,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “But we’ve got a long ways to go, and we can get better.”
Bangor managed just 137 total yards against a lightning-quick Lawrence team that has allowed just two touchdowns this season.
The Rams also were hurt by four turnovers – just three fewer than they had relinquished in their first five games.
Three came on pass interceptions by Mike Hersom, John Flynn and Tom Hersom, while Wallace had a fumble recovery.
Those turnovers didn’t lead to Lawrence points, but they helped the Bulldogs win the battle of field position – and on this night that was critical.
“Our kids are very tough defensively, they pride themselves in that a lot,” said Lawrence coach John Hersom. “We don’t like to give up first downs. Bangor had a few [nine], but the kids were determined to keep them out of the end zone.”
Lawrence’s offense didn’t overwhelm Bangor’s defense, either, amassing 237 total yards. Aaron Champagne led Bulldogs with 58 yards on 14 rushes, while Corey Church added 49 yards on eight tries.
The Bulldogs turned it over three times – with Bangor’s Shane Walton intercepting two passes and Brad White recovering a fumble.
But Lawrence had more success moving the ball, and might have won by a wider margin except that a 22-yard field goal try by Mark Ashland early in the second quarter missed wide left and a touchdown pass from Jack Hersom to Mike Hersom later in the period was called back by a holding penalty .
Ashland more than made up for his miss, connecting from 27 yards out with 5:54 left in the third quarter for the game’s only points.
“I thought Bangor’s defense would be very tough tonight,” said John Hersom. “We just told our kids to stick with it, and if it didn’t happen right away to keep working. We really didn’t get our run game going the way we wanted it, but give the kids credit for doing the best they could.”
Ashland’s field goal capped off a drive that began with good field position at the Lawrence 47. Mike Hersom outwrestled a Bangor defender for the ball to make a 28-yard pass reception to the Bangor 13, and Ashland converted three plays later.
“We got a little frustrated, but we stuck together,” said Wallace of the early scoring threats gone unfulfilled. “But we knew something good would happen later on, and it did.”
Bangor did enter Lawrence territory in each of its first two possessions of the game, but the first drive ended on an interception by Mike Hersom and the second drive was stalled when a holding penalty negated a long gain on a screen pass from quarterback Ian Edwards to tight end Ryan Weston.
The Rams never threatened again.
Edwards paced Bangor’s offense with 50 yards on 15 carries, while fullback Kyle Vanidestine had 44 yards on 11 attempts.
“It was pretty tough,” said Hackett. “Ian had a few good runs and then they stopped that, and we really had nothing else.”
BULLDOGS 3, RAMS 0
Lawrence (5-0) 0 0 3 0 – 3
Bangor (5-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
L-Ashland 27 field goal
First downs 11 9
Rushing att.-yards 49-171 34-118
Passing comp.-att. 5-13 3-19
Passing yards 56 19
Total yards 227 137
Punts-avg. 2-30.5 4-25.3
Fumbles-lost 3-2 4-1
Intercepted by 3 2
Penalties-yards 7-48 3-22
Lawrence: A. Champagne 14-58, Church 8-49, Wallace 11-26, J. Hersom 9-23, S. Champagne 6-15, T. Hersom 1-0; Bangor: Edwards 15-50, Vanidestine 11-44, Walton 6-25, Billings 1-8, Gallant 1-(minus-9)
Lawrence: J. Hersom 5-13-2-56; Bangor: Edwards 3-19-3-19
Lawrence: M. Hersom 2-41, Nelson 1-7, A. Champagne 1-5, S. Champagne 1-3; Bangor: Flynn 1-15, Crews 1-10, Walton 1-(minus-6)