BIDDEFORD — Field hockey has never been a marquee sport in Biddeford, where football rules in the fall. But that changed this year.

“Everywhere we go, Hannaford, Dunkin’ Donuts, the girls are getting stopped,” said Caitlin Albert, in her fifth season as the Tigers’ field hockey coach. “I’m getting stopped. So many people who know nothing about field hockey say they’re going to the game.”

That game is the Class A state final, where Biddeford (16-0-1) will play juggernaut Skowhegan (17-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Deering High in Portland. It will be Biddeford’s first appearance in a state championship game since 1995. Skowhegan, the three-time defending state champion, is making its 18th consecutive appearance in the state final.

“Skowhegan does everything and anything right,” said Albert. “We respect them so much. We think of Skowhegan in such a positive way. And we feel extremely fortunate to be given this opportunity. But our girls want it so much. As I’ve told them, on any given day, anything can happen.”

That Biddeford advanced this far is no surprise. The Tigers were regarded by many as the best team in the South entering the season.

“They have all the ingredients,” said Scarborough Coach Kerry Mariello, who played on the 1990 Biddeford team that won the school’s only Class A championship. “They’re explosively fast, they’re highly skilled and they’re motivated.”

More than that, said Mariello, they perfectly reflect their home town’s values. “It’s a blue-collar mentality there and they play like it,” she said. “They have to work for everything they get.”

The path to the state final began a year ago.

“This all started, their want to get to the state game, the second they lost to Westbrook (in the regional final) last year,” said Albert. “In the offseason, (the players) put together tournament teams and played on their own. And the second that we could coach them this summer, they wanted to go two, three times a week. They were just so determined.”

Senior goalie Taylor Wildes, a four-year starter, said, “We’ve always told ourselves that we had to do better than we had the previous year. So, obviously, last year we lost in the regional finals. This season, it was, ‘We need to do better.’ And now we’ve done that and we’re going to the state game, just like in all our dreams.”

The Tigers had to overcome some adversity. They defeated Westbrook 1-0 in overtime in the Class A South final without their best player, senior center midfielder Hailey Allen, who suffered a torn ACL in her right knee in the semifinals and won’t play Saturday. She will undergo surgery in late November.

“Her field presence is so strong and we relied on her so much,” said Albert. “She probably touched the ball the most on the field. She was our safety net. But losing her has forced, in the best possible way, everyone else to step up.”

Sophomore Abby Allen, Hailey’s sister, is Biddeford’s top scorer with a school-record 24 goals and 12 assists, followed by senior Paige Laverriere (15 goals, 10 assists), junior Brooklyn Goff (11 goals, two assists) and junior Megan Mourmouras (six goals). Wildes has 11 shutouts. Senior Harmonie Coolbroth has three defensive saves.

Now the Tigers face a team that has won 15 of the last 17 state titles.

“We’re the underdog, which is good for us,” said Albert. “We have not been the underdog all season, and now the pressure is off. I think the girls will respond well.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH