Week 8 of the high school football season sports a sense of finality, as the regular season ends in Eastern Maine Classes A and B.
With that comes rivalry games, and pivotal contests that will determine not only playoff seedings but in some cases playoff existence.
The same is true in the LTC, where with two weekends left on the schedule, several teams are still jockeying for the last of the four available postseason berths while others seek to clinch home-field advantage for their playoff games.
Bangor Rams (6-1) vs. Brewer Witches (0-7), 7 p.m. Friday, Doyle Field, Brewer: Bangor can secure second place in the Pine Tree Conference Class A ranks with a win in the 100th edition of this rivalry.
And, in the unlikely event of a loss by undefeated Lawrence of Fairfield to Messalonskee of Oakland in its regular-season finale, the Rams could sneak into first place based on their strength of schedule and the Crabtree points.
Bangor, which leads the series against Brewer 71-20-8, has won four straight games this season, including a 46-0 victory over Mt. Blue of Farmington last week.
“It looks like the kids are cranking it up a bit,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “They know what they want, and they seem to be playing to get to that point.”
Brewer, while still seeking its first win in its return to Class A for the first time since 1998, has shown improvement in recent weeks. The Witches suffered a narrow loss to Cony of Augusta in Week 6, and Saturday night they played a highly competitive game against Messalonskee before a late touchdown stretched the Eagles’ victory margin to 28-14.
“We’re getting better,” said Brewer coach Don Farnham. “It’s been a long year, and the kids could have packed it in, but each week they’ve been working hard.”
Belfast Lions (2-5) vs. Mount Desert Island Trojans (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Bar Harbor: Belfast faces a must-win situation in order to continue to maintain its playoff hopes. The Lions have shown improvement in recent weeks, even in narrow losses at Waterville and last week against 5-2 Leavitt of Turner Center, when Belfast built a 20-8 second-quarter lead before dropping a 32-26 decision.
Senior QB Jake Arthers had a productive game against Leavitt, completing 12 of 15 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
MDI already has clinched a winning regular season and a second straight Pine Tree Conference Class B postseason berth, and with a win against Belfast and a Leavitt loss to Gardiner may earn a home game in next week’s regional quarterfinals.
Coach Mark Shields’ MDI club has won three straight games, including a 21-6 victory over Nokomis of Newport last Saturday that featured 140 rushing yards from Odane Gaynor and 118 receiving yards from Terrence Jones.
Foxcroft Academy (7-0) vs. Rockland Tigers (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Wasgatt Field, Rockland: Foxcroft can clinch home-field advantage throughout the Eastern C playoffs with a win – and that’s a fairly big deal since the Ponies haven’t lost at home since 2001.
Rockland is in strong position to earn its first playoff berth since 1988 by winning at least one of its last two games – the Tigers host 3-4 Bucksport next weekend.
Rockland is the last LTC team to defeat Foxcroft, having defeated the Ponies 26-19 in the opening game of the 2005 season. Since then, Foxcroft has won 26 straight games against LTC foes while earning the last two Eastern C championships.
Five different Foxcroft running backs have between 263 and 330 rushing yards and all are averaging at least 5.1 yards per carry. That group includes Jerod Rideout (65 carries, 330 yards), Ian Champeon (48-303), Shane Adkins (33-292), Ben Provost (50-284) and Wade Witham (31-263).
The Ponies will match a defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league against a Rockland offense ranked No. 1 in average yards per game (356.2). Rockland senior Andrew Weiss had more than 100 yards both rushing and receiving last week and has 565 rushing yards on 80 carries for the season. That trails only younger brother Sam Weiss, who has 650 yards and 11 touchdowns on 80 carries.
Sophomore quarterback Dylan Meklin has completed 52 percent of his passes for 711 yards.
Orono Red Riots (5-2) vs. Mattanawcook Academy Lynx (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Curry Field, Lincoln: Mattanawcook would move a step closer to securing third place in the LTC standings with a victory, given that it would hold head-to-head tiebreaking advantages over all other contenders for that position.
Despite missing injured quarterback Derek Libbey, out since Week 5 with a knee injury, the Lynx have won four straight contests. Brady Vose (88 carries, 726 rushing yards) has anchored the offense. Nate and Ian Nevells and sophomore Greg Hand (11.5 quarterback sacks) pace a defense that has allowed just 145.5 yards per game and 1.9 yards per rushing attempt.
Orono faces a rugged two-game stretch to end its season, first at Mattanawcook and then home against 6-1 John Bapst of Bangor, as it endeavors to maintain its playoff hopes.
Reigning LTC player of the week Collin Bates leads the Red Riots offensively, ranking third among conference rushers with 769 yards and 10 touchdowns on 89 carries. QB Kash Keezer has completed 52 percent of his passes for 564 yards.