BREWER, Maine — Buoyed by a stunning last-second victory at Waterville last Saturday, the Brewer football team has been fueled by an added sense of self-confidence this week as it prepares for Friday’s Pine Tree Conference Class B regular-season finale against Hampden Academy.
But the Witches also are aware of the challenge ahead in facing a Hampden squad that ranks among the most prolific scoring teams in the state — and a team that frustrated their playoff dreams a year ago by handing them a similarly stunning last-second defeat in the Eastern Maine quarterfinals.
“The kids haven’t beaten Hampden in a while, and we lost to them on the last play the last time we played them,” said Brewer coach Don Farnham. “ The kids haven’t forgotten that, and this week they’re being reminded of it probably every 15 minutes of practice.”
The 5-2 Witches will host 6-1 Hampden Academy at Doyle Field in one of the marquee games of the Week 8 slate, which marks the end of the regular season in the PTC Class B and LTC Class C ranks before the eight-team playoffs in those divisions begin next week.
The PTC Class A will play a ninth week of regular-season games next week before sending four teams off to the playoffs. Lawrence of Fairfield (7-0), Brunswick (6-1) and Messalonskee of Oakland (6-1) having clinched playoff spots while 5-2 Cony of Augusta needs just one more win or one more loss by 3-4 Oxford Hills of South Paris to secure the final postseason ticket.
Hampden Academy Broncos (6-1) at Brewer Witches (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday: Hampden is riding a six-game winning streak and has averaged 42 points per game this fall behind a talented offensive line and the backfield leadership of junior quarterback Matt Martin and senior halfback Logan Steward — the latter closing in on 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season.
“Hampden’s a great team,” said Farnham. “They’ve got a big senior class that has been very successful, and coach [Harry] McCluskey is a top-notch coach. They’re good, probably one of the top two teams in the league right now.”
The Broncos boast nearly 20 seniors on their roster, seniors who as juniors defeated Brewer twice last season, 35-28 in the regular-season finale and 22-21 the next weekend during the first round of the playoffs, on a touchdown as time expired.
Hampden has been sparked this fall by its play along the line of scrimmage.
“From the first game on, I’ve felt that the offensive line has been very good, and we’ve got great depth this year, which is rare since I’ve been here,” said McCluskey, the Broncos’ eighth-year head coach.
Brewer re-emerged as a contender last weekend, rallying from a 21-6 halftime deficit to shock Waterville 26-21 on a 65-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Logan Rogerson to Spencer Valley with 1.6 seconds remaining.
“A lot of people talk about the end of the game and the last play,” said Farnham. “But what sticks out to me is that we were behind 21-6 at halftime, and Waterville had pretty much had their way with us, but in the second half they didn’t score. I’ve been preaching to the kids that you can never give up, because you never know what will happen, and they kept playing right to the end.”
Both teams have clinched postseason berths, but there other factors such as playoff seeding, home-field advantage and first-round opponents involving not only the Brewer-Hampden clash but also games sending 4-3 Waterville to 7-0 Mt. Blue of Farmington and 6-1 Leavitt of Turner Center to 5-2 Gardiner.
Messalonskee Eagles (6-1) at Bangor Rams (3-4), 7 p.m. Friday: It’s homecoming weekend at Cameron Stadium, with Bangor in the unusual role of spoiler while trying to salvage a winning season.
Messalonskee already has clinched its PTC Class A playoff berth, but where the Eagles will finish among the top four teams in the league is far from determined with games against Bangor and undefeated Lawrence of Fairfield remaining in their regular season.
Messalonskee is 3-1 under interim coach Chapin LaBelle, who was named to the head coaching post late last month when Wes Littlefield resigned after an incident involving a player at practice. He subsequently has been charged with misdemeanor assault, according to the Oakland Police Department, and is scheduled to appear in Waterville District Court on Nov. 20.
The Eagles got a boost last weekend with the return to the lineup from injury of running back Corey McKenzie, who rushed for 96 yards and four touchdowns as Messalonskee crushed winless Mount Ararat of Topsham 68-7.
Bangor got back on the winning track last weekend with a 37-20 win at Lewiston. Running back Cody Chapman was the offensive workhorse for the Rams with 264 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Carl Farnham threw two touchdown passes to tight end Nick Ashey.
Bucksport Golden Bucks (5-2) vs. Hermon Hawks (5-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Husson University, Bangor: Playoff-bound Bucksport will seek to build on the momentum gained from last Friday’s 13-0 upset of previously undefeated Foxcroft Academy.
Coach Joel Sankey’s club limited a Foxcroft team that averaged 53.7 points per game in its first six games to just 157 yards of total offense, while inducing four turnovers by the Ponies.
Bucksport’s defensive challenge this weekend will be to slow the LTC’s top rusher, sophomore David Shepardson, who has led Hermon to one of the best records ever compiled by a second-year varsity program.
Shepardson rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries during the Hawks’ 19-8 win at Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield last Friday, bringing his season’s totals to 1,279 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns.
Stearns Minutemen (3-4) vs. Washington Academy Raiders (3-4), 7 p.m. Friday at East Machias: These teams both look bound for the LTC playoffs, but the winner of this contest could finish as high as sixth in the final standings.
Stearns wants to halt a four-game losing streak that included a 52-12 loss to Orono last Friday night. Washington Academy, like Hermon a second-year varsity program, has won three of its last four games, including a 33-12 victory over Mount View of Thorndike last weekend.