An investigation by school officials into an apparent locker room incident involving the Bangor football team won’t be completed until early next week, but the Rams’ 14th-year head coach knew what he had to do as his team prepared to host Oxford Hills of South Paris in its homecoming game at Cameron Stadium on Friday night.
He sat down 10 players, mostly starters, who are the subject of the investigation, and made the best of the situation
with those who remained.
Bangor’s new-look offense struggled on short notice as Oxford Hills powered its way to an 18-0 victory in their Eastern Maine Class A regular-season finale, but for Hackett his choice was all about the bigger picture.
“I made a decision based on the information I had personally, and I thought this was what was best for a classy program and a classy team. It was totally my decision,” said Hackett after the game. “There’s an investigation being done, they’re looking into it and their decision will be made later. I made the decision of what I thought we needed to do to get through tonight.”
Hackett notified his remaining players of his decision about an hour before the game when they gathered in the high school gymnasium to take the short bus ride over to the game site.
“That’s when the final decision was made,” Hackett said. “This was made very quickly by me and I just went with my gut told me.
“We’ve still got a lot of players and they’re proud kids and we coach them all,” he added. “They played their butts off. I’m proud of them. I might be as proud of them as I’ve been of any team.”
Even with a full roster, Hackett was concerned about Oxford Hills’ strength along the line of scrimmage and depth at running back and linebacker, and the Vikings didn’t disappoint.
Led by Davis Turner, Brady LaFrance and Malik Geiger, the sixth-seeded Vikings (4-4) ball-controlled their way to 242 rushing yards on 58 attempts and churned out touchdowns in each of the first three quarters on the slippery grass to pull away.
“Offensively it was tough,” said Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren. “It wasn’t super muddy but it was slick out there. But we were able to establish some things out there, and we had a lot of short runs and we had some long runs.”
Turner led the way with 80 yards on 19 carries along with Oxford Hills’ first score of the game on a 2-yard run with 1:21 left in the opening quarter. LaFrance added 74 yards on nine carries, including a 22-yard run that made it 12-0 with 10:28 to go in the first half.
And Geiger chipped in 67 yards on nine carries — one the longest run of the night by either team, a 38-yard tackle-breaking surge to the end zone for the game’s final score with 4:12 left in the third quarter.
“They’re good up front, They’re tough. They run the ball like that and because of it they’ve been in a lot of close games with a lot of good teams,” said Hackett. “We didn’t have a lot of fortune early but we played pretty well defensively for a while and then we kind of ran out of gas.”
Turner, the leading tackler in Eastern A entering the game, also was a defensive leader for the Vikings in the contest along with lineman Connor Bickford, who applied considerable pressure to Brian Peirce, a first-time starter at quarterback for Bangor.
Nick Graham rushed for 52 yards on 15 carries for the Rams, but Bangor finished the night with just 39 yards of total offense while Oxford Hills’ Patrick Macro had two of his team’s three pass interceptions.
Bangor got only as close as the Oxford Hills 33 after a 26-yard pass from Peirce to Ethan Dorman on the final play of the first quarter. They never entered Vikings’ territory again after a Macro interception on the next play.
The loss drops third-seeded Bangor to 5-3 on the season, and the possibility exists that the Rams will meet Oxford Hills again next weekend in the opening round of the playoffs, depending on how Portland and Deering of Portland, both 4-3 and ranked fourth and fifth in Eastern A entering the weekend, fare in their games Saturday.
Hackett isn’t 100 percent certain what his lineup will look like for that postseason matchup — but the job will remain the same.
“We line up and practice and get better and then we line up again,” said Hackett. “That’s what you do.”