After a tumultuous week off the gridiron, the Bangor Rams are looking forward to playing football again.
So, too, are the other 37 high school teams statewide that will begin their postseason pursuit of a state championship in regional quarterfinals this weekend.
No. 5 Oxford Hills Vikings (4-4) at No. 4 Bangor Rams (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday: These teams met just last Friday, Oct. 24, but similarities with the rematch may be few.
Bangor should be near full strength after several starters were among players suspended for last Friday’s 18-0 loss to Oxford Hills by coach Mark Hackett in the aftermath of a locker-room incident the previous evening.
A subsequent investigation by school officials resulted in Tuesday’s announcement that nine players had been disciplined with penalties that include a one-game suspension, a one-day out-of-school suspension and a one-day in-school suspension.
Disciplined players who were suspended for last week’s game will be eligible to play in the rematch pending their completion of the other penalties. As many as three other disciplined players who weren’t suspended last Friday will have to sit out the playoff contest.
“We’re going to be a better team talent-wise this Friday than we were last Friday, there’s no question about that because we were without some of our starters,” said Hackett. “That doesn’t take away from how hard the kids played who played in that game, and it also puts a challenge out to those kids who missed the game that they’ve got to play well or they’ll find themselves out of the game.”
Bangor will be tasked with trying to slow an Oxford Hills rushing attack that churned out 242 yards on 58 clock-controlling carries from its pistol formation last week.
“They’ve very, very crafty with the ball, it’s hard to tell who has it,” said Hackett. “They’ve very well-coordinated with the way their line pulls and blocks, and defensively they’re real tough.
“They’re big and strong, and they put a lot of guys in the box, so you can’t just make one or two blocks, you’ve got to make three or four blocks to have a decent play. They create a lot of problems.”
The Bangor-Oxford Hills winner will play at No. 1 Cheverus of Portland (7-1) in the semifinals on Nov. 8.
No. 6 Brewer Witches (4-4) vs. No. 3 Lawrence Bulldogs (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Fairfield: Two teams in the midst of bounce-back seasons after combining for just three victories last fall square off at Keyes Field.
Brewer secured its playoff berth by winning three of its last four games, with the only loss a last-second 37-36 decision at No. 5 Mt. Blue of Farmington two weeks ago.
“From week to week, we’ve gotten tremendously better as a team,” said Brewer head coach Nick Arthers. “We’ve been doing the little things a lot better as far as knowing what our assignments are, tackling better on defense, doing a better job of blocking all the way to the whistle and hitting the hole hard with the ball.”
Lawrence won a defensive battle of field position and turnovers in its 17-0 victory at Brewer during Week 3 of the regular season.
“[Lawrence] has kind of been playing with a chip on its shoulder because they’re a team that last year experienced a down season, and that’s uncommon when it comes to Lawrence football,” said Arthers. “I think this year they really wanted to focus on getting better from week to week much like we have, and we’ve seen that they’ve done that from watching them on film.”
The winner will play at second-seeded and defending state champion Cony of Augusta (6-2) in next weekend’s semifinals.
“Offensively, we really need to focus on controlling the ball,” said Arthers of the rematch with Lawrence, “and defensively, we need to contain their backs. We need to stop the run first and foremost and from there cover their receivers.”
No. 6 Mount Desert Island Trojans (3-5) at No. 3 Foxcroft Academy Ponies (6-2), 7 p.m. Saturday at Dover-Foxcroft: These teams will meet for the second time in as many weeks, with Foxcroft scoring a 43-8 victory on the island last Friday night, Oct. 24.
MDI will need to find a way to contain the Foxcroft duo of junior quarterback Hunter Smith and senior halfback Peter Boyer, who combined for 310 rushing yards and five touchdowns last week.
Since Smith was shifted from wide receiver to quarterback in Week 3, he and Boyer have combined for 1,937 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in six games — five victories and a one-point loss to undefeated and top-ranked Winslow.
Boyer has rushed for at least 138 yards in each of those games, while Smith has eclipsed 100 yards on the ground in five of the six contests.
No. 5 Madison-Carrabec Bulldogs (4-4) at No. 5 Belfast Lions (5-3), noon, Saturday: These teams played one of the more remarkable regular-season games of recent vintage when Belfast outscored Madison-Carrabec 82-60 during Week 4.
Belfast, a regional semifinalist last fall, lost its next two games to Winslow and Nokomis of Newport but since has rebounded to average 47.5 points in victories over Camden Hills of Rockport and Old Town.
Madison-Carrabec has won three of its last four games and averaged 27.5 points per contest since that loss to Belfast to earn the program’s first playoff berth since 1994.