FARMINGTON – Nothing like a little mud football to raise the Bangor Rams’ collective the energy level.
Coming off a loss to undefeated Lawrence followed by a bye last week, Bangor thrived in the monsoon conditions that engulfed much of Maine on Friday night and overpowered Mt. Blue 34-0 in a Pine Tree Conference Class A football game on Caldwell Pond – er, Caldwell Field.
“We seemed flat this week, but I think the rain helped us,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, whose 6-1 Rams close out the regular season with their Homecoming game against Oxford Hills of South Paris next weekend.
“It brought out the little kid in the guys, and it was just warm enough out there and we had enough success early that it looked like we were having fun again.”
Fun translated into a dominant two-way performance. Bangor rushed for 321 yards overall, as Shane Walton and Kyle Vanidestine combined for 237 yards and four touchdowns behind the offensive line work of center Mark Sturgeon, guards Tyler McDade and Jon Thompson, tackles Robert Seccareccia and Adam Kearns, tight end Ryan Weston and wingback Alex Gallant.
Perhaps equally impressive on this wet and stormy night – the game was delayed for 40 minutes early in the third quarter by lightning – was that the Rams committed just one turnover, that coming on their first offensive series of the game.
“We’re pretty good up front,” said Hackett, “and I think when you’re heavy and there’s bad weather you have an advantage. We’re pretty heavy and we’re not real fast but we’re not slow, either, and I don’t think we slipped a lot. It was hard to control the ball with the hands in the rain at times, but I didn’t see a lot of guys slipping out there.”
Bangor’s defense forced three turnovers – two on interceptions by Jimmy Batchelder and Matt Kenny – while limiting Mt. Blue to 143 yards of total offense, 66 on a fourth-quarter run by quarterback Joey Gilbert in which he was tracked down from behind by the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Weston to help keep the shutout intact and avenge a 42-0 loss to the Cougars last year.
“Last year was a huge motivator,” said junior linebacker and offensive guard Tyler McDade. “Before the game we wanted revenge, we wanted to come out here and do the same thing to them that they did to us last year.”
Walton (18 carries, 181 yards) gave Bangor a 7-0 lead on the Rams’ second possession with a 68-yard run with 4:55 left in the opening quarter.
Tom Crews made it 13-0 less than two minutes later with a 72-yard punt return. The speedy senior fielded the punt in the middle of the field at the Bangor 28 and worked his way to the right sideline before racing untouched to the end zone.
Bangor extended its lead to 21-0 by halftime on a 2-yard run by Vanidestine (15 carries, 56 yards) and by a two-point conversion pass from Ian Edwards to Weston.
Walton scored his second touchdown on the first play after the lightning delay with a 2-yard TD run set up by a fumble recovery by Sturgeon.
Vanidestine added the game’s final touchdown on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter – long after the scoreboard and game clock had become victims of the quagmire.
“Tonight was a lot of fun,” said Sturgeon, a senior center and nose guard. “The weather, it might have seemed bad, but it’s wonderful. It was a great thing to be able to play out here tonight.”
RAMS 34, COUGARS 0
Bangor (6-1) 13 8 13 0 – 34
Mt. Blue (3-4) 0 0 0 0 – 0
B – Walton 68 run (Vanidestine kick)
B – Crews 72 punt return (kick failed)
B – Vanidestine 2 run (Weston pass from Edwards)
B – Walton 2 run (Vanidestine kick)
B – Vanidestine 1 run (kick failed)
Bangor Mt. Blue
First downs 16 5
Rushing att.-yards 52-321 29-134
Passing comp.-att. 3-5 2-9
Passing yards 25 9
Total yards 346 143
Punts-avg. 1-20.0 4-40.0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 6-1
Intercepted by 2 0
Penalties-yards 4-35 6-35
Bangor: Walton 18-181, Vanidestine 15-56, Billings 9-42, Edwards 6-36, Sproul 2-19, Crews 10-(minus 5), Gallant 1-(minus 8); Mt. Blue: Gilbert 6-70, Wilbur 8-43, Toothaker 10-28, Rowe 3-12, Reynolds 1-(minus 9), Trask 1-(minus 10)
Bangor: Edwards 3-5-0-25; Mt. Blue: Gilbert 2-7-1-9, Reynolds 0-2-1-0
Bangor: Gallant 2-20, Weston 1-5; Mt. Blue: Robbins 1-6, Toothaker 1-3