The high school football playoffs have arrived, albeit with a slight touch of confusion.
That’s because of the state’s eight divisions of Classes A-D North and South, four have eight-team playoff fields while the other four qualify six teams for postseason, as determined in each case at the local level by conferences, not by the Maine Principals’ Association.
In the North, six teams qualify in Classes A, B and D while eight advance in Class C; in the South six teams qualify in Class A while eight schools advance in Classes B, C and D.
The MPA invites each locally produced division champion to play in its state championship games, this year on Friday, Nov. 17, at the University of Maine in Orono (Class C) and Saturday, Nov. 18, at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland (Classes A, B and D).
In the meantime, 30 of the 36 teams from the South and 26 of the 36 teams from the North – or a total of 74 percent of the teams in the four divisions overall — remain alive for playoff competition.
Class B North
No. 5 Brewer (4-4) vs. No. 4 Messalonskee (4-4), 7 p.m. Friday at Oakland: These teams played a ground-based shootout in Week 6, with Messalonskee holding off the visiting Witches 36-33. Messalonskee has lost two straight since then while Brewer has defeated No. 8 Hampden Academy and No. 6 Brunswick. More ground-and-pound is expected in the rematch, though a big key will be the availability of Class B North’s leading rusher, as Messalonskee senior Austin Pelletier (1,266 yards) left last week’s game against Lawrence with a sprained knee. Pelletier rushed for 256 yards in his team’s earlier win over Brewer. Bryant Kiley leads Brewer’s rushing attack, ranking third in Class B North with 989 yards and 14 touchdowns.
No. 6 Brunswick (1-7) vs. No. 2 Cony (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Augusta: Brunswick is the three-time defending regional champion and the reigning Class B state champ, and despite the record the Dragons have shown their competitiveness recently in a 3-point loss at Lawrence and a one-possession defeat at Brewer last week. Pass-oriented Cony, meanwhile, had its five-game winning streak ended in dramatic fashion during an overtime loss to Class C South rival Gardiner in Week 8.
Class C North
No. 8 John Bapst (3-5) at No. 1 Mount Desert Island (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Qualifying for the playoffs is a significant step forward for a John Bapst team that finished 1-7 in both 2015 and 2016, but MDI not only is the defending Class C North champion but is riding a seven-game winning streak filled with domination – the Trojans boast an average winning margin of 29.5 points during that stretch.
No. 7 Waterville (3-5) at No. 2 Winslow (7-1), 1 p.m. Saturday: This Battle of the Bridge encore matches a Waterville team that has successfully rebooted after a winless 2016 season against a Winslow team that reached the regional final last fall and is one of the favorites again this year. Winslow’s lone loss came against Class B North second seed Lawrence of Fairfield in Week 2, and the Black Raiders’ current six-game winning streak began with a 57-10 victory at Waterville.
No. 6 Maine Central Institute (4-4) at No. 3 Nokomis (6-2), 1 p.m. Saturday at Newport: Nokomis makes its postseason debut after a breakthrough regular season highlighted by a five-game winning streak before a 44-22 loss at MDI to end the regular season. MCI handed the Warriors their other loss in a 12-0 Week 2 decision at Pittsfield. Nokomis is undefeated at home this fall, but MCI – the defending Class D state champion – looks to be peaking at the right time after a Week 7 victory over Class D North-leading Foxcroft Academy and a narrow loss to Winslow last Friday.
No. 5 Oceanside (5-3) at No. 4 Hermon (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday; The BDN Sports Game of the Week – live streaming at www.bangordailynews.com — features two programs on the upswing. Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston, a semifinalist last year, has averaged 36.3 points per game, almost identical to the 36.0 points per game averaged by a Hermon team making its first-ever postseason appearance. Hermon has won three straight since a two-point loss to Winslow, while Oceanside has won four of its last five outings.
Class D North
No. 5 Ellsworth-Sumner (4-4) at No. 4 Dexter-Piscataquis (4-4), 1 p.m. Saturday: Ellsworth-Sumner makes its postseason debut after four victories in its last five games, while Dexter-Piscataquis is back in the playoff fold after reaching the LTC championship game last fall. These teams last met in their season-opener, with Dexter-Piscataquis scoring a 28-13 victory at Tiger Field in Dexter.
No. 6 Houlton-Hodgdon-Greater Houlton Christian (3-5) vs. No. 3 Mattanawcook Academy (5-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Lincoln: Houlton gets new life after struggling to the finish line during the regular season with just one victory in its last six outings, a run that began with a 40-20 Week 3 loss to Mattanawcook. The Lynx also are seeking to bounce back from a 40-0 home-field loss to top-ranked Foxcroft Academy last weekend that ended a five-game winning streak.
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