Game of the Week: Battle of the Bridge No. 175 has ramifications for both teams

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Garrett Pousard slips on the wet field during an early play in the first quarter Friday night at Lewiston High School.

The 175th Battle of the Bridge is already unique in that it is being played on Bates College’s Garcelon Field. Chances are something else notable will push that down into the footnotes of Bim Gibson’s next book.

The rivalry dates back to 1897, so Friday night’s game will be under the microscope from its 7 p.m. kickoff if it wants to stand out in the history books. Lewiston leads all-time, 92-70-12, but EL is riding a two-game winning streak.

If this year’s game could match last year’s rainy nail-biter, a 22-19 Red Eddies win, it should be noted that most of the same players had roles in a notable series. The Blue Devils and Red Eddies seemed to be  closely matched on paper coming into the season and were playing a similar brand of football that combined tough defense with opportunistic offense early in the season. 

But a lot has changed in less than a month.

EL continued to improve from week to week and is seeking its first perfect regular season since 1976 (the 1977 Red Eddies had one tie). The Red Eddies wrapped up home field advantage in the Class A North playoffs with a 21-13 win over Windham last week, led by senior QB Grant Hartley’s three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).

Hartley is completing 55 percent of his passes this year for a league-leading 882 yards and 10 touchdowns. He directs the league’s top-scoring offense (27.3 ppg) with one of the top receivers in the league in fellow senior Maxx Bell. Bell is also a key to the Eddies’ league-leading defense (9.6 ppg), along with fellow linebackers Justin Theriault and Terrell Thomas.

Lewiston’s primary defensive objective will be stopping EL running back Caden Begos, with linebackers Sean O’Donnell, Dominick Colon, Jeremy Madore and Garrett Poussard. The Blue Devils have been stout at times on defense, allowing the second-fewest points in the league (14.9 ppg), but the unit has not been able to come up with the stops to protect late leads, which is a big reason why they are 3-4 and taking a three-game losing streak onto the Garcelon turf Friday night.

The Blue Devils need their offense to cease stopping itself because opportunities against EL’s defense will be few. Quarterback Tanner Cortes will rely on a running game led by Poussard, the second-leading rusher in A North (412 yards, fourth touchdowns) and Hunter Landry (260 yards, three touchdowns). Landry and Jason Willis are the main targets in the passing game.

With a win, the Blue Devils could leap frog Windham into the No. 2 Heal point slot and earn a bye next week. But there may be a part of Lewiston’s soul that would like to keep playing next week coming off the confidence boost such a win would give them.

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