Morse senior Gabe Aucoin (23) dives for a touchdown as Waterville defender Dawson Harrison hangs on to his ankles during the eight-man large North final earlier this season at Drummond Field in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

After a lost 2020 season that was limited to 7-on-7 flag football because of the pandemic, tackle football returned with a bang across the state this fall. Big hits, unlikely outcomes and Gold Balls up for grabs once again signaled the official return of the game to the gridiron.

On the Midcoast, three teams — Mt. Ararat, Morse and Freeport — came oh-so-close to winning state or regional titles.

Mt. Ararat fell in the eight-man large school South regional final to Cheverus, while Morse fell in a thrilling large North title game to Waterville. In Class D, Freeport took a hard-fought loss against Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale in the state semifinals.

“After a year of no tackle football, this year was a joy to watch unfold,” said Morse head coach Jason Darling, whose team finished No. 2 in eight-man large North. “It was an added emphasis on the fundamentals, blocking and tackling always win games.”

Elsewhere on the Midcoast, Lisbon reached the Class D playoffs but bowed out in the quarterfinals. Brunswick had its season come to an abrupt end as a result of a hazing investigation. Although law enforcement did not file criminal charges,  longtime head coach Dan Cooper was let go after 24 seasons with the program.

Waterville High School wide receiver Dawson Harrison (22) fumbles the ball after getting hit by Morse linebacker Gabe Aucoin during the eight-man large North final on Nov. 6 in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

As individual performances go, Morse senior Gabe Aucoin turned in a memorable fall. The powerful running back rushed finished with 1,616 yards and 18 touchdowns on 133 carries, good for 12.2 yards per carry.

The Shipbuilders ended up being one of the highest-scoring teams in the entire state, finishing with 374 points in nine games. Morse failed to score at least 42 points once this fall — and that came in the large North final, a 22-20 loss to Waterville.

Morse quarterback Josh ter Mors who was a threat with his arms and legs. He threw for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had just two interceptions. Bradley Creamer and Alex Maccio provided holes up front and were shutdown tackles on defense. Ben Doughty was a force at fullback and the captain of the defense at linebacker.

Mt. Ararat/Hyde also enjoyed a successful season. With only two losses, both to state champion Cheverus, the Eagles picked up right where they left off from their 2019 championship season.

Mt. Ararat football coach Frank True greets junior Shea Farrell as Farrell comes off the field during an eight-man large South semifinal game against Spruce Mountain. Photo provided by Jason Eggleston

“The growth of our team this season was a great thing to watch,” said Eagles head coach Frank True. “It was obviously a disappointing ending, but we held our heads high walking off the field for a final time.”

Mt. Ararat/Hyde downed Spruce Mountain in a home playoff game to set up a regional title game with Cheverus. True called it “a big moment for the program” to win a home playoff game.

The Eagles were led by a group of standouts, including running backs Kaiden Getchell and Shea Farrell, lineman Eliot Douglass, linebacker Kyle Graffam, and quarterback/cornerback Mac Wilkins. Douglass, Farrell, Getchell, and Graffam were named to the Campbell Conference all-conference team while Wilkins was an honorable mention.

Class D Midcoast teams turned out strong seasons as well. Freeport found its groove late, winning a playoff game over Poland before falling to the Ramblers. A young Lisbon team started 0-3 and saw two games canceled due to COVID before ending the regular season on a three-game winning streak. The Greyhounds fell in the Class D quarterfinals to rival Oak Hill, 20-19.

Winthrop’s Aidan Grant tackles Freeport’s Nick White during a Class D semifinal playoff game in Winthrop on Nov. 13. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“It felt like 13 weekly seasons that were unique every week,” said Freeport head coach Paul St. Pierre. “We entered the season with questions and without a true identity, but we answered all those questions as we grew through the season.”

Freeport was led by the Casale twins, Danny and Tony, along with running backs Jordan Knighton and Nick White. Aidan Heath provided consistency at quarterback while Cody Arsenault and Cam Desrosiers led the line on both sides of the ball.

Lisbon had three players named to the Campbell Conference all-conference team in Canaan Cameron, Cam Levasseur and Chance Versey.

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