“It’s probably going to be smash-mouth football,” said Thornton quarterback Jack Emerson of the Trojans’ rematch with Oxford Hills, this one for the Class A state championship Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

It will be difficult to top Saturday’s drama.

The eight surviving high school football teams in Maine are glad they’ll get the chance to try.

The 11-man football state championship games will be played this weekend, following a Saturday that saw Dexter and Cape Elizabeth win games on the final play, Windham winning in double overtime and Marshwood shocking undefeated Portland, 35-0.

“I was talking with (Windham Coach) Matt Perkins and they had a hell of a game with Lawrence that could have gone either way,” said Winslow co-head coach Pete Bolduc, whose team beat Hermon 38-30 in the C North final. “You look at what Cape did on that final drive. That was an impressive, impressive drive.”

The Class D championship between No. 2 Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale (7-1) and No. 1 Foxcroft Academy (10-0) will kick off championship weekend at 6 p.m. Friday at Cameron Stadium in Bangor.

The action shifts to Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland for a Saturday tripleheader. No. 1 Thornton Academy (10-0) faces No. 2 Oxford Hills (8-1) in the Class A final at 11 a.m. Then comes Windham (9-0) vs. Marshwood (8-3) in the B final at 2:30. The Class C championship between Cape Elizabeth (9-1) and Winslow (7-2) will start at 6.

IN CLASS A, it’s a rematch of a midseason 31-23 Thornton Academy win at Oxford Hills. In that game, Thornton forced six turnovers, two resulting in defensive touchdowns.

Oxford Hills is coming off a convincing 34-7 win against Bonny Eagle. Junior quarterback Eli Soehren threw four touchdown passes and ran for the fifth score.

“They’re very athletic. (Oxford Hills) can hurt you in a lot of ways. They’re big and physical up front,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal.

Thornton beat Scarborough 28-12 in its semifinal after trailing 12-7 at the half – another Saturday surprise considering the Trojans had beaten the Red Storm 51-0 two weeks earlier.

“It’s probably going to be smash-mouth football,” said Thornton quarterback Jack Emerson of the rematch with Oxford Hills. “Probably whoever ends up with the most yards will win the game.”

Oxford Hills has never won a football championship. Its lone appearance in the state final was a 24-10 loss to South Portland in 1999.

Thornton has nine Class A championships, including the 2012, 2014, 2105 and 2018 crowns under Kezal. Thornton lost in the 2019 Class A final to Bonny Eagle.

IN CLASS B, Windham and Marshwood have been on wild rides the past two weeks. Windham survived a 7-6 scare in the regional semifinal against Skowhegan and then needed to go to double overtime to top Lawrence, 42-35. Marshwood, which has won five of the past six Class B championships, was just 5-3 in the regular season but avenged regular-season losses by beating Kennebunk 42-21 and then dominating unbeaten Portland.

“I’m still in shock,” said Marshwood Coach Alex Rotsko. “The last two games it’s like we’re a different team.”

Rotsko said as he and his coaches prepared for the Portland game, “we just didn’t think they were that much better than us when we watched them on film, so we thought we could hang with them.” Behind the running of fullback Andrew Goodwin (four touchdowns, 134 yards), Marshwood had touchdown drives of 80, 93 and 83 yards.

Marshwood focused its defense on stopping Portland’s jet sweeps to Reegan Buck and Nathan Isajar because “everything else comes off of that for them,” Rotsko said. The Hawks also held standout back Brandon Boyle to 35 rushing yards.

Windham quarterback Will Ledbetter has thrown for over 1,600 yards this season, and tossed five touchdown pass in a double-overtime win over Lawrence on Saturday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Perkins said he was pleased with how Windham’s offense bounced back after a sluggish effort against Skowhegan. Quarterback Will Ledbetter completed 14 of 22 passes for 234 yards and five touchdowns. For the season, Ledbetter has thrown for over 1,600 yards,” and I think our rushing is close to that,” Perkins said.

What Perkins wants to see is his defense return to form. The Eagles allowed only 46 total points in their first eight games. Saturday’s game was 28-28 at the end of regulation.

“We didn’t tackle well. We’ve been a great tackling team all year and we didn’t do it well Saturday,” Perkins said.

This will be Marshwood’s seventh state championship appearance in Rotsko’s nine seasons. The Hawks won titles in 2014 and 2015 and three-peated from 2017-19.

Perkins has led Windham to three previous state finals, all in Class A, beating Bangor for the school’s only football championship in 2009 and losing to Thornton in 2014 and Scarborough in 2017.

IN CLASS C, Cape Elizabeth will be trying to win its first football championship after knocking off unbeaten Leavitt 25-23, thanks to an 18-play, 59-yard drive that chewed up the final 10:03 of the game. The Capers converted three fourth downs on the drive, including Caden McDuffie’s winning 3-yard run. Early in the drive, McDuffie kept the sticks moving with a fourth-and-1 sneak. Nick Laughlin got enough yardage on a fourth-and-5.

“I told the coaches, I told the kids, I’ll probably never be involved in a drive like that again,” Cape Coach Sean Green said on Monday.

Green took over as Cape’s coach prior to the 2019 season after Aaron Filieo took the South Portland job. Cape was 106-48 with two state game appearances (2012 in Class B and 2017 in Class C) in Filieo’s 15-year tenure.

“The program was in a tremendous place thanks to Aaron Filieo,” Green said. “But I’m not Aaron and he’s not me and I had to put my own spin on it. When we look back, we’ll look at this drive as the establishment of this new era of Cape football, just tough, gritty football and an ability to grind out tough yards.”

Winslow, which has a 32-man roster this season, has nine championships, including seven under longtime coach Mike Siviski, who retired in August 2020. Bolduc and Wes Littlefield are Winslow’s co-head coaches.


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