For the last two years, the football teams at John Bapst Memorial High School of Bangor and Nokomis Regional High School of Newport have needed to find different sources of motivation as they entered Week 5 of the regular season.
Both teams were essentially out of playoff contention by then, Nokomis at 0-4 in Class B halfway through both the 2015 and 2016 seasons while John Bapst was 1-3 in 2015 and 0-4 last fall.
The mood is much more upbeat in both camps this year, as John Bapst and Nokomis are clear Class C North postseason contenders as they prepare to meet Friday night at Husson University in Bangor.
John Bapst, which went 6-2 and reached the Class D North semifinals in 2014, was 2-14 the last two years in Class C and started this year 0-2, but coach Dan O’Connell’s club has rebounded with victories over Old Town and Waterville.
“The last two seasons we were 1-7 and to now finally start this season not so well but then get going and have the whole school and the fans behind us is great,” said Austin Michaud, a senior defensive end and offensive center for the Crusaders. “We’re practicing hard, we’re having fun, and it’s going great.”
Nokomis has followed a similar path under first-year coach Jake Rogers. Winless the last two seasons in Class B, the move by enrollment to Class C North has served the Warriors well.
Nokomis scored a season-opening win at Hampden Academy, then after a 12-0 loss to defending Class D state champion Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield — also now in Class C — has topped both Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro to improve to 3-1 and join John Bapst among eight schools in the division at .500 or better.
“Nokomis dropped to Class C this year so that must have been a confidence booster for them,” said John Bapst senior wide receiver and defensive back Logan Dempsey. “But we’re on a hot streak right now. We just won our second game and we’re not used to winning so we’ve definitely been working hard this week to keep it going.
“We’ve been studying up, watching film on Nokomis and we think we match up well against them. We’re ready to play Friday.”
Cony Rams (2-2) at Brewer Witches (2-2), 7 p.m. Friday: This is the BDN Game of the Week — live streamed at bangordailynews.com — marks the rematch of a thrilling Class B North semifinal from last fall when Brewer’s ground game outscored Cony’s passing attack for a 44-34 victory.
Cony likely will employ the same offensive approach again, as receivers Jordan Roddy and Elijah Dutil — who caught four TD passes in last year’s playoff meeting — have combined for 670 receiving yards and eight touchdowns already this fall from senior quarterback Anthony Sousa.
Brewer, which yielded four touchdown passes during its 34-20 nonconference loss to Greely of Cumberland Center last week, may have some question marks in its offensive backfield. Starting running back Bryant Kiley missed the Greely game with an ankle injury and his replacement, Bryce Largay, left that contest in the second quarter with a leg injury. Cony is not without its own injury woes, as linebacker Mike Wozniak and lineman Jake Mills left the Rams’ 32-8 win over Mt. Blue of Farmington last week with apparent season-ending knee injuries.
Mount Desert Island Trojans (3-1) vs. Maine Central Institute Huskies (2-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Pittsfield: Champions collide as MDI, the reigning Class C North title holder, visits 2016 Class D state champion MCI. MDI has its ground game going, averaging 42.7 points per game while winning its last three outings. MCI, coming off a nonconference loss at Cape Elizabeth, begins a grueling second half of its schedule that includes home games against MDI, Winslow and Class D North-leading Foxcroft Academy.
Winslow Black Raiders (3-1) at Hermon Hawks (3-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Two other 3-1 teams in Class C North square off at Pottle Field. Winslow has been rolling since its Week 2 loss to Class B Lawrence of Fairfield, averaging 56.5 points in victories over Waterville and Belfast. For Hermon this marks the second straight game against a 2016 C North finalist after a loss at MDI last week.
Dexter Tigers (3-1) at Bucksport Golden Bucks (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday: This ultimately may be a battle for second place in Class D North, with each team’s lone LTC loss to date coming against top-seeded Foxcroft Academy. Bucksport has faced a grueling schedule, with its lone win coming against 2-2 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln in triple overtime while its losses coming against Foxcroft, Lisbon and MDI, teams with a combined 10-2 record. Dexter, after suffering significant graduation losses from its 2016 team that reached the LTC final, may be considered the surprise of the division through four weeks, and if a competitive 24-14 loss at Foxcroft in Week 3 didn’t convince skeptics that the Tigers were back, last Saturday’s 21-point nonconference win over Dirigo of Dixfield certainly was an eye-opener.