Twelve months ago, Bonny Eagle, Brewer and Lisbon joined dozens of others on the long journey to Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium.

As autumn set in, teams began to fall by the wayside with the leaves. With talent, coaching, health, perseverance and luck on their side, the Scots, Witches and Greyhounds reached the summits of Class A, B and C, respectively, on Nov. 19. This year’s champions will be crowned 364 days later, on Nov. 18, and, again, there are dozens of teams who think this is their year.

The 2006 season begins tonight with a number of marquee matchups (Lewiston at Bangor, Winslow at Leavitt, Mountain Valley at Wells) and intense rivalries (Oxford Hills at Mt. Blue, Lisbon at Livermore Falls). The best part about the beginning of the season is knowing there will be many, many more of these to come.

The Week 1 slate is a fine way to start:

Tonight’s games

Lewiston at Bangor, 7 p.m.

Two preseason favorites to reach the Pine Tree Conference playoffs can get a leg up with a win on opening night. The Blue Devils boast the best running back in the state in Jared Turcotte, but they’re expecting a number of other playmakers to emerge this year. The Rams are huge up front and have perhaps the second best running back in the PTC in Alex Gallant.

Cony at Edward Little, 7 p.m.

With two of the top QBs in the PTC going, this could be a shootout at Walton Field. Troy Barnies, who has verbally committed to play basketball at Maine, directs the Red Eddies’ new offense under new head coach Darren Hartley. Cony will spread the field for Gabe Hinds, who led the league in passing last year.

Oxford Hills at Mt. Blue, 7 p.m.

USA Today dubbed the Cougars, the defending PTC champions, one of the teams to watch in Maine. The Vikings hope the threat of all-conference split end Ethan Sutton going deep and a solid offensive line can help out a young backfield.

Mountain Valley at Wells, 7 p.m.

Senior QB Andy Shorey leads the Falcons into what is annually one of the tougher games on a spotty schedule. But the defense may have the toughest job trying to shut down Wells’ ball-control offense led by a senior-laden offensive line and a trio of junior running backs – Brett Moore, Ryan Vartanian and Justin Vigeant.

Winslow at Leavitt, 7 p.m.

Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway called Winslow “a cut above everyone else” in Pine Tree Conference Class B, so his young team, led by junior QB Evan Barker and sophomore tailback Tyler Green, should have a good idea of where it stands after tonight.

Lisbon at Livermore Falls, 7 p.m.

Lisbon begins its Class C title defense with what should one of the most physical foes it faces. Both teams have veteran offensive lines but some new faces in the backfield.

Jay at Bucksport, 7 p.m.

The re-rematch of the 2004 Class C championship game. The Tigers won last year’s tilt, 19-6. Jay has eight starters back, led by fullback/linebacker Trevor McCourt, while Bucksport returns just six starters but considerable talent and speed in the backfield.

Tonight’s other games:

Gray-New Gloucester at Greely, 7 p.m.

Winthrop at Old Orchard Beach, 7 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Old Town at Oak Hill, 1:30 p.m.

York at Poland, 1:30 p.m.

Cape Elizabeth at Fryeburg, 1:30 p.m.

Madison at Dirigo, 1:30 p.m.


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