Juggernauts, upstarts spice up football season

MCI's Aaron Noonan (left) celebrates his touchdown carry with teammate Dillon Fitts in the first half of their high school football game against Orono Friday night in Orono. MCI won 67-0. (Michael C. York/BDN)

MCI’s Aaron Noonan (left) celebrates his touchdown carry with teammate Dillon Fitts in the first half of their high school football game against Orono Friday night in Orono. MCI won 67-0. (Michael C. York/BDN)

A few thoughts through two weeks of the high school football season:

… Three teams already have established dominance within their respective divisions before the first day of autumn: Thornton Academy of Saco, Winslow and Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield.

Thornton Academy, the defending Class A state champion, has outscored Sanford and Cheverus of Portland by a combined 106-0 in re-affirming itself as the team to beat in the state’s largest-school class.

Last weekend, the Golden Trojans made a statement with a 57-0 win over Cheverus — when is the last time a John Wolfgram-coached team lost a game by 57 points!

Winslow, the reigning Class C state champion, is showing no ill effects from graduating its top three offensive threats from a year ago in Dylan Hapworth, Justin Martin and Bobby Chenard. Coach Mike Siviski’s club has matched Thornton Academy’s dominance by defeating Belfast and John Bapst of Bangor by a combined 106-0.

And MCI, which reached the Class D state final for the first time since 2000 last fall, has looked even deeper this season while defeating Washington Academy of East Machias and Orono by a combined 131-0. An example of success breeding success finds an MCI team whose roster numbered in the low- to mid-20s just a few years ago now boasting more than 50 players.

All three of these juggernauts are scheduled to face fellow 2-0 opponents on the road this weekend, with Thornton Academy at Deering of Portland and Winslow at Mount Desert Island on Friday night and MCI at Mount View of Thorndike on Saturday afternoon.

… Early returns are promising for three of Eastern Maine’s — I mean Northern Maine’s — newer varsity programs.

First-year entry Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and the second-year team from Houlton are 2-0 and among the LTC Class D North co-leaders two weeks into the schedule. Medomak Valley has used late comebacks to score one-point victories over Bucksport and Stearns of Millinocket, while Houlton has built early leads in its wins over Dexter and Camden Hills of Rockport.

Both teams are on the road this Friday night, Houlton at 2-0 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln and Medomak Valley at 0-2 Washington Academy. Houlton then visits Medomak Valley on Friday night, Sept. 25.

Then there are the Ellsworth-Sumner Eagles, who ended an 0-25 start to their three-plus years of varsity reincarnation Saturday night with a 22-8 victory at Washington Academy behind Devin Wright’s three rushing touchdowns and a stout defense.

According to Ian Braun, co-author of “50 Years of the LTC,” the win was the first for an Ellsworth football team since a 19-13 victory over Foxcroft Academy on October 15, 1955.

Ellsworth, which initially began fielding varsity football teams in 1951, disbanded its program after that season and did not rejoin the varsity ranks until 2012 under current head coach Duane Crawford.

…. I experienced a game with its second half contested under the new mandatory running-time rule for the first time Friday night when MCI built a 53-0 halftime lead en route to a 67-0 victory over Orono.

It was an ideal application of the rule, which provides for the use of running time except for certain situations during the second half of any game in which the point differential is 35 points or greater. If the point differential subsequently dips below 35 points, the game reverts to standard timing rules.

MCI already had established control of the contest, and at least three two-way starters among Orono’s 27-player roster had been sidelined with first-half injuries, leaving prospects for a comeback even more remote.

With running time employed after intermission save for situations involving a charged timeout, injury, penalty or after scores, the second half lasted approximately 35 minutes. It was plenty of time for reserves and subvarsity players to experience the ‘Friday Night Lights’ atmosphere of varsity competition while reducing the time frame for potential additional injuries.

Nobody seemed to complain.

Ernie Clark

About Ernie Clark

I'm a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, my coverage areas range from high school sports to mixed martial arts.