October 25, 2013

High School Football Notebook: Traditional games get Maine teams ready for playoffs

By Tom Chard tchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

When high school football realignment was being discussed by the Maine Principals’ Association, one thing schools asked to keep intact were rivalry games. The final week of the regular season brings them.

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DUNCAN PRESTON

Player of the Week

Duncan Preston, South Portland: Preston passed for six TDs and ran for one as the Red Riots beat Biddeford 55-24 in a game between 4-2 teams. Preston was on target from start to finish, completing 15 of 19 passes for 290 yards.

HONORABLE MENTION

Matt Pisini, Greely: Pisini passed and ran the Rangers to a 35-21 win over favored Cony. He rushed for 174 yards, and scored on runs of 38 and 43 yards, also passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Chase Eldredge, Sanford: Eldredge passed for 124 yards and one touchdown, and added 104 yards rushing as the Spartans beat Noble 17-0 to secure a Western Class A playoff berth.

Noah Collins, Westbrook: Collins, a linebacker, was outstanding in a losing effort against Kennebunk. Collins finished with an interception, a fumble recovery and several key tackles.

Three in Class A stick out: South Portland at Portland, Lewiston at Edward Little, both Friday night, and Biddeford at Thornton Academy on Saturday.

While the six teams that make the playoffs in both Eastern and Western Class A appear set, there could be some movement within those six based on these games. All six of these teams are playoff bound.

After Edward Little beat Deering last week to secure a playoff spot in Eastern Maine, Coach Dave Sterling told his team that the playoffs start with this week’s game against Lewiston.

And that’s the mindset for the other teams as well. For teams heading to the playoffs, rivalry games come at a good time. They offer a good way to prepare because these games are intense, maybe more intense than a first-round playoff game because of the tradition.

“The rivalry thing is big. We had to keep them,” said Sterling.

“It’s a playoff atmosphere,” said South Portland Coach Steve Stinson. “We’ve had a good run against quality opponents. I’ve told the kids the playoffs start this week.”

With eight teams in both Eastern and Western Class A, six teams head to the playoffs in each region. In the West those teams are Bonny Eagle, Thornton Academy, South Portland, Scarborough, Biddeford and Sanford. In the East it will be Cheverus, Portland, Windham, Bangor, Edward Little and Lewiston. The Eddies moved ahead of the Blue Devils into fifth place by beating Deering while the Blue Devils were losing to Portland.

What’s missing this year in both regions is jockeying for the final playoff spots.

“It’s a little bit anticlimactic because we know we can’t move,” said Sanford Coach Mike Fallon.

While there’s no battle for the final playoff spots in Class A, the playoffs look interesting. In the East, Cheverus and Portland are clearly the best two teams and will get first-round byes. That means they’ll move right to the semifinals in two weeks.

The West is more competitive with at least four teams having a chance to win the regional title. For the top two seeds, it means a two-week layoff from playing, which some coaches might question, but it also gives those teams a chance to rest and recover from injuries.

“I was not real happy with it at the start of the season but with our situation, I kind of like it because it gives us a chance to get healthy,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal.

Because of injuries, Thornton has used 11 offensive linemen this season. The Golden Trojans have gotten some original line starters back over the last two games but two are out for the season. Thornton also lost running back Andrew Libby, one of the best players in the state, for the season in the opener.

“We’re as healthy as we’re going to be in the line and we’re getting a couple of skill players coming back this week,” said Kezal. “The kids have been resilient. We’re fortunate to have depth throughout the program.”

There are other rivalry games this weekend – Deering-Cheverus, Cony-Gardiner, Marshwood-York, Waterville-Winslow, Sanford-Massabesic and Windham-Bonny Eagle. The three mentioned above have played long before state and regional playoffs were part of high school football, but their outcomes this year will go a long way in determining the playoff picture.

“There’s still a lot that could happen,” said Biddeford Coach Brian Curit.

THE BIDDEFORD-THORNTON ACADEMY game has special meaning for the people in Biddeford and Saco. And well it should. The schools will meet for the 93rd time in the regular season.

(Continued on page 2)

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