Bangor High School football player Onyedika Moneke (left) tries to tackle Elizyah Bradford during a practice in August. The Rams open the season Friday night at Cameron Stadium in the 108th series meeting against Brewer. Credit: Gabor Degre

This year, it’s for real again.

The Bangor-Brewer high school football series not only returns to the regular-season schedule in 2019, but — instead of closing out the schedule as has happened with many rivalry games this cross-river battle — this one also will be one of the Week 1 highlights of the new campaign.

Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup at Cameron Stadium in Bangor will be the 108th meeting on the gridiron between the schools in a series that began in 1903. Bangor leads the rivalry 73-26-8.

“To open up with your rival on your home field, excitement may be understating it,” second-year Bangor head coach Dave Morris said. “I think we’re really looking forward to it.”

The game marks the first regular-season meeting between the schools since 2010, when Bangor defeated Brewer 13-0 during the Witches’ last season in Class A.

More recently, the teams have played several times during the preseason. Brewer has won the previous four meetings, including a 26-12 victory last year at Doyle Field in Brewer.

This year’s game looms as a competitive matchup, with both teams in a rebuilding mode.

Bangor is coming off a 1-8 season in Class A North and has won only three regular-season games in the past four years. The Rams look to improve in the long term behind their deep junior and sophomore classes but would like to use a victory over Brewer as the springboard to improved status in the revamped, eight-school statewide Class A ranks.

“This game has always mattered to us, but it’s never actually counted before,” Bangor senior lineman Ezra Hamer-Nagle said. “I feel that this year there’s just a little added on to the pressure of the game, so everyone’s excited.”

Brewer, 2-7 in Class B North a year ago, similarly is rebuilding with a youthful roster that includes just four seniors.

“Having this be both a regular-season game and the season opener has brought a lot of excitement to both communities,” sixth-year Brewer head coach Nick Arthers said. “Bangor has improved greatly over the last few years, and they will be ready come Friday. Coach Morris has done great things for the program, and I expect Friday to be a very tough game.”

Hermon vs. Leavitt, 7 p.m. Friday at Turner Center: This game features two teams that reached their respective Class C regional finals a year ago and may be poised to make even deeper postseason forays this fall.

Hermon graduated reigning Class C North player of the year and Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist Garrett Trask but otherwise returns a veteran lineup from last year’s 9-2 club that dropped a 13-6 decision to Nokomis of Newport in the regional title game.

Leavitt, 9-2 in 2018, brings back a deep offensive arsenal led by quarterback Wyatt Hathaway from the club that lost 20-13 to Fryeburg Academy in the C South final.

Maine Central Institute vs. Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale, 7 p.m. Friday at Winthrop: This crossover clash matches MCI of Pittsfield, a top contender in Class C North, against a Winthrop-led cooperative entry that figures to challenge for regional honors in a deep Class D South field.

Both clubs reached their respective regional semifinals last fall before falling to the eventual state champions. Wells beat Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale 41-22.

Both teams are led by veteran quarterbacks, third-year starter Ryan Friend of MCI and Keegan Choate for Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale.

Medomak Valley vs. Nokomis, 7 p.m. Friday at Lawrence High School, Fairfield: Defending Class C state champion Nokomis plays the first of its four “home” games a half-hour down Interstate 95 at Keyes Field in Fairfield.

The Warriors are rebuilding after graduating 13 seniors, while Medomak Valley hopes to continue improving after posting a .500 regular-season record in Class C North and earning their first postseason berth since joining the varsity ranks in 2015.

Belfast vs. John Bapst, 7 p.m. Friday at Husson University, Bangor: Two teams with ambitions of upward mobility within Class C North look to take the first step on that road at each other’s expense.

John Bapst boasts its most veteran team in recent years under veteran coach Dan O’Connell, while Belfast has a new coach in Brian Goff to guide an experienced nucleus ready to pursue a second straight postseason berth.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...