Week 9 of the high school football season marks the start of the Eastern Maine Class B playoffs, while the final week of regular-season play in Eastern A and C brings with it several questions remaining to be answered.
Belfast Lions (4-4) vs. Hampden Academy Broncos (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Hampden: These teams last met in Week 6, with the Broncos getting a game-winning field goal midway through the fourth quarter and then surviving a last-minute drive by the Lions to the brink of the goal line.
Neither team has lost since then, with No. 4 Hampden bringing a three-game win streak into its first home playoff game since 1998, and No. 5 Belfast coming off two must-win victories over Mount Desert Island and Brewer to win its return trip to this Pine Tree Conference Class B quarterfinal.
“I think in the fourth quarter of that [Hampden] game we started to come together as a team,” said Belfast co-coach Butch Richards. “It didn’t end up the way we would have liked it, but we had a couple of drives in the fourth quarter to come back against them and I think the kids realized they could do this.”
Both teams bring high-powered rushing attacks into their rematch, fueled by offensive fronts that have improved as the season has progressed. Belfast’s Travis Lee has rushed for more than 1,200 yards to lead a ground game that also features Ricky Bernosky, Jon Walsh and quarterback Jake Arthers.
Hampden’s Bob Seger is coming off a 306-yard outburst during the Broncos’ 41-12 win over Maranacook last weekend, while teammate Kyle Ross has come on strong during the second half of the season.
“Any time you play the same team twice it’s tough on both teams,” said Hampden coach Harry McCluskey. “One team is disappointed that they lost and are determined not to lose to that team again, and the other team is happy they won and they want to go out and prove it wasn’t a fluke.”
Oxford Hills Vikings (0-7) vs. Bangor Rams (6-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Cameron Stadium, Bangor: It’s Homecoming weekend at Bangor, where a win by the home team in its regular-season finale would secure another home game next weekend in the Pine Tree Conference Class A semifinals.
Coach Mark Hackett’s club put forth a dominant effort amid the rain and mud at Mt. Blue of Farmington last weekend, using its line strength to overpower the Cougars 34-0 and post its third shutout victory of the season.
Most scenarios have Bangor facing Lewiston in the first round of the playoffs in a rematch of the Rams’ 42-35 victory over the Blue Devils in Week 1.
But first Bangor must not overlook Oxford Hills, because a loss to the winless Vikings of South Paris might leave the Rams on the road for that regional semifinal.
Rockland Tigers (5-3) vs. Bucksport Golden Bucks (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Carmichael Field, Bucksport: A victory would secure Rockland its first playoff berth in 18 years, but the Tigers face a Bucksport team that can clinch second place in the LTC Class C and a home playoff game with a win.
The Tigers saw their three-game win streak ended by Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln at home last Saturday, as they were unable to contain an MA rushing attack led by LTC player of the week Brady Vose that amassed more than 400 yards.
Short of undefeated Foxcroft Academy, coach Joel Sankey’s Bucksport club is the hottest team in the LTC. The Golden Bucks eased past Dexter 24-6 on the road last week for their fifth consecutive victory.
John Bapst Crusaders (4-4) vs. Orono Red Riots (3-5), 7 p.m. Friday at Orono: John Bapst is in search of its first LTC Class C playoff berth since 1997, but needs help from Bucksport .
Should Rockland lose to the Golden Bucks, the Crusaders of Bangor would land the LTC’s fourth and final playoff berth with a win over the Red Riots.
John Bapst is coming off two straight losses against some of the iron of the league in Mattanawcook Academy two weeks ago and top-ranked Foxcroft by a 26-6 count last Saturday night.
Orono, meanwhile, is looking to end its season on a two-game winning streak after defeating Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield 42-8 last Saturday night.
Mount Desert Island Trojans (5-3) vs. Waterville Purple Panthers (6-2), 1 p.m. Saturday, Drummond Field, Waterville: MDI makes its first playoff appearance since 1998 against a team it has never faced in this Pine Tree Conference Class B quarterfinal.
The sixth-ranked Trojans capped off their first winning regular season since 2000 with a 32-6 win at Old Town last Friday night, but No. 3 Waterville represents a significant challenge for coach Mark Shields’ club.
“One thing we noticed that was really staggering when we saw them was their team speed,” said Shields.
“For us defensively we’ll definitely have our plates full with trying to slow them down, and we want to try to control the ball against them.”