It’s already been an interesting season of high school football in Eastern Maine, and the playoffs haven’t even started.
Here’s one view of a few of the brightest moments.
Individual performance of the year: Jared Jensen, Brunswick. Few sports fans had heard of Jensen away from the wrestling mat — where he is a two-time Class A state champion — until the opening game of the 2012 season, when the senior halfback rushed for a stunning 428 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries as Brunswick upended Bangor 36-28. Injuries have slowed Jensen up slightly in recent weeks, but he still enters the 6-2 Dragons’ final regular-season game against Mount Ararat of Topsham with PTC Class A-leading totals of 1,874 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns on 210 carries.
Game of the year: Mt. Blue 20, Leavitt 12. These teams went to double overtime in the 2011 PTC Class B final before Leavitt finally pulled out a 22-21 win by going for and successfully executing a win-or-lose two-point conversion on the final play of the game. In their first meeting since then, Mt. Blue of Farmington traveled to Turner Center, took an immediate 14-0 lead and held on for a 20-12 victory that ended Leavitt’s 38-game winning streak against PTC competition, a run dating back to the 2008 playoffs.
Comeback of the year: Belfast 30, Mount Desert Island 22. This game was all MDI at halftime, with the Trojans holding a 22-0 lead on Belfast’s home turf. But the Lions, which entered the game with a 1-3 record after losses to PTC Class B heavyweights Gardiner, Leavitt of Turner Center and Hampden Academy, may have saved their season by scoring 22 third-quarter points to tie the game and then scoring the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Belfast won three of its last four games and used the win over MDI as the tiebreaker to earn the No. 7 seed for the conference playoffs.
Upset of the year: Bucksport 13, Foxcroft Academy 0. On the surface this wasn’t that big an upset, given that Bucksport is the reigning Eastern Maine Class C champion that had eliminated Foxcroft in the 2011 LTC semifinals. But Foxcroft had outscored its first six opponents this autumn by a combined 322-8 and had not had a point scored on its first-team defense, while Bucksport had lost to Orono and John Bapst of Bangor, teams that already had fallen to Foxcroft by a combined 82-0. But Foxcroft got off to a sluggish start and Bucksport capitalized with two early touchdowns before its defense took over, inducing four turnovers to keep the Ponies off the scoreboard and give the rest of the LTC field a sense of hope as the postseason arrives.
Resurgence of the year: Dexter Tigers. Tigertown was Titletown throughout much of the 1980s, but the Tigers have had little success since then, including last fall when Dexter finished 1-7. But this year has marked a new beginning under new head coach Kevin Armstrong, who has guided his team to a 6-2 record good for fifth place in the final LTC Class C Crabtree point ratings. Dexter will be the underdog in its quarterfinal matchup at Bucksport on Friday night, but with solid participation numbers and new momentum the football future is looking brighter for the Tigers.
Breakthrough of the year: Hermon Hawks. After winning just one game during their debut varsity season in 2011 and falling to Dexter in their season opener this fall, the Hawks won five of their next six games en route to a 5-3 finish in the LTC Class C. Hermon is ineligible for postseason play because it is a Class B school by enrollment playing a Class C schedule, which is too bad because the Hawks feature a running back any fan would like to watch play in sophomore David Shepardson, the LTC’s leading rusher this fall with 1,416 yards and 21 touchdowns.