BANGOR — They will board at 3 p.m. At roughly 4:20, two buses will pull into the Gardiner rest stop and, 15 minutes later, they will be back on the Maine Turnpike.

Arrival time is about 5:30 p.m., two hours before kickoff.

“We’ve got this down,” said Bangor High football coach Al Mosca.

As the lone Class A football team north of Lewiston and South Paris – home of Oxford Hills – the Rams will play games this season at Lewiston (108 miles away), South Portland (135), Oxford Hills (134), and Friday night at Windham (131).

Bangor will log more miles than any other Class A football team. If anything, travel has become a source of pride.

“You take that road warrior mentality,” said Mosca, in his first year as head coach after two years as an assistant. “Our kids know it’s just part of their day.”

Ask longtime Bangor athletic director Steve Vanidestine about the challenges and he bristles.

“We don’t consider it a challenge,” Vanidestine said, “because it’s not an option for us. We’re used to the travel. It’s not an issue.”

Bangor also travels long distances for other sports, hockey in particular. And starting this winter, its basketball teams will travel to southern Maine because the sport expanded to five classes.

All this travel comes with a steep price tag. Vanidestine said each bus costs $3 a mile plus $20 an hour for the driver.

The football trip to Windham?

“That will run about $1,200,” he said.


The football players shrug when asked about bus rides that can take 21/2 hours.

“It doesn’t seem to be too much of a struggle,” said senior Zach LeClair.

If there’s a challenge, “it’s more mental,” said senior Ben Crichton. “But we take the trips seriously. We use the time to prepare. Physically we just get our legs moving (when we get off the bus).”

The stop in Gardiner is used for a quick stretch and bathroom visit. That rest stop also features some fast food chains. Any time for a Whopper?

“No food,” said senior Ethan Dorman with a laugh. “Bathroom break and back on the bus.”

Since football games are on Fridays or Saturdays, the trips don’t interfere with school. The players are on other teams in the winter and spring, which feature weeknight games. They find time for homework.

“We have study halls,” said Dorman, who also plays basketball. “When we’re watching (the junior varsity play), we can get stuff done.”

While the Rams embrace being road warriors, opponents may not be used to long rides.

“It’s tougher for the schools coming here,” Vanidestine said. “It’s a major trip for them.”

Windham High football coach Matt Perkins brought his team to Bangor last season.

“We focused on planning it out so there wasn’t a lot of down time,” Perkins said. “We made sure they stretched their legs and ate at the right time. … We tried to make it as normal as a regular road game.”

A donor provided a commercial bus, complete with monitors so the team could watch game film on the way to Bangor.

But as much as Perkins planned, “The kids were kind of lethargic on the ride. They were a little drowsy coming out. It took a while for us to get going.”

Windham needed some big defensive plays for a 6-0 victory.

The Portland High football team played in Bangor in 2013 and will again this season.

“This is not like going to Scarborough, getting off the bus and begin warming up,” said Coach Jim Hartman. “You have to give them some time to get ready.”


Vanidestine graduated from Bangor High in 1970 and has worked at the school since 1975, the past 33 years as athletic director. He remembers when there were plenty of surrounding Class A schools.

“Brewer was A, Fort Kent, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle and Caribou, Old Town, Stearns, Hampden, Nokomis. We were called the Big East,” he said.

But enrollments dropped in those schools. And eventually, Lawrence High in Fairfield, Waterville, Cony High in Augusta and Brunswick also dropped down in class.

“The north-south line has gone from being the Augusta toll booth, to Gardiner, to Gray, to below Portland,” Vanidestine said. “I can’t change two things: my location and my enrollment.”

In basketball, Bangor will no longer play in the same class as nearby schools such as Brewer and Hampden Academy. The Rams will play in the new Class AA North with Lewiston, Oxford Hills, Windham and Edward Little of Auburn – along with Deering, Cheverus and Portland.

When the five-classification system was proposed, it looked onerous for Bangor because of the possibility of long trips on weeknights, “but it ended up being a very positive thing,” Vanidestine said.

“We truly wanted an opportunity to participate at (the highest) level, in order to compete at that level at the end of the season.”

Bangor’s basketball and hockey schedules feature trips to southern Maine that are on weekends, holidays or school vacation. The Rams do have one Tuesday night basketball game at Oxford Hills.


The player and coaches ride the bus. Parents usually make the trips, too – some carpooling, others meeting at the opposing school. After the game they gather near the bus for a brief time with their boys, then head back on the road.

“We have a big following,” said Jamie Dorman (Ethan’s mom). “There’s a (camaraderie) that I love about it.”

Dorman is a teacher so her schedule usually works for leaving early enough for away games.

Sonny LeClair (Zach’s dad) owns his own businesses “so I’m pretty busy. But I wouldn’t miss a game. … I’m lucky. Some parents don’t have the time to take off from work.”

So while LeClair will drive his Ford pickup to Windham on Friday, David Crichton (Ben’s dad), will be at work, selling manufactured homes.

“It’s tough,” Crichton said.

Ben also plays hockey and baseball “so we live on the road.” Crichton said. “We do what we have to do for our kids. … We have one more year with the kids being seniors and then they’re off.”

As Crichton spoke, he began calculating the distance to Windham and his work schedule. If he left right away, with no stop in Gardiner, Crichton probably wouldn’t make the kickoff but he’d be close.

“I might take a shot at it,” Crichton said.