“This is what we work for,” Cheverus High football coach John Wolfgram said this week as he headed down the hall and outside for another practice.

The chance to win a Gold Ball drives teams when practice starts in August, and for those fortunate to still be playing, drives them even more with the prize so close.

Five regional finals are on tap today around the state today. The winners will advance to Super Saturday, when Gold Balls will be handed out next week at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

In Western Class A, Cheverus (10-0) is home against Deering (8-2) at 12:30 p.m. At the same time in Rumford, Mountain Valley (10-0) and Wells (9-1) will play for the Western Class B title.

In Western Class C, Yarmouth (10-0) will be home against Lisbon (9-1) at 1 p.m.

There will be two finals in Eastern Maine. Leavitt (10-0) will be home in Turner against Gardiner (8-2) at 4 p.m. in Class B, and Stearns (10-0) will be home in Millinocket against John Bapst in Class C at 1 p.m.

Deering will take the short bus ride to Cheverus this morning. The last time the Rams made the trip, it didn’t work out well.

On Oct. 23, Cheverus came out strong, led 24-0 at halftime and won 44-14 to earn home field for today’s game. After two weeks of winning playoff games, the rivals are back at it.

Cheverus expects a different Deering team this time.

How different will depend on how Deering handles Cheverus runners Evan Jendrasko and Spencer Cooke, how its secondary plays and how effective quarterback Jamie Ross is with the spread offense.

Jendrasko and Cooke combined for 355 yards rushing with Cooke scoring three touchdowns. Quarterback Peter Gwilym is also a strong runner on rollouts.

Despite Cheverus’ dominance the last time, Gwilym expects the Rams to come out strong and sustain it.

“I expect the game to go right down to the wire,” said Gwilym.

Whatever emotion the Rams brought with them the first game quickly disappeared after the Stags scored on two long pass plays before halftime. Deering’s 28-6 victory against Bonny Eagle in the semifinals last week restored confidence.

The Stags have weathered close games the last two weeks and feel they’re stronger because of it. Having a balance between the ground and passing games is always a goal of Wolfgram’s teams. He had that mix when he coached South Portland, and has it this season with Cheverus. Deering also will need that balance.

Unlike Cheverus, Yarmouth and Wells had tight regular- season games with their opponents. Yarmouth beat Lisbon 16-14 and Mountain Valley beat Wells 14-6 on a broken play. The Mountain Valley punter picked up an errant snap and ran 75 yards for a winning touchdown.

Yarmouth is in the regional final for the second straight year in only its fourth season of varsity football.

These teams persevered through two-a-day practices in August, the bumps and bruises of the season, then two weeks of playoff pressure.

Their prizes are now within their grasp.


Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]