As if having the last week for the butterflies to multiply wasn’t enough, Winslow and Mountain Valley have all day to wait before tonight’s Class B state championship game (6 p.m., Fitzpatrick Field).

Earlier in the week, the Falcons were trying to think of ways to kill time before they board the bus to Portland this afternoon. Head coach Jim Aylward figured some household chores might do him some good.

“I myself plan to chop wood,” Aylward said. “As for the kids, I don’t want them hunting. I don’t know what I want them to do. I may have to come (to the school) and entertain them.”

Other than the late starting time, the Falcons’ second trip to the state title game in three years will look and feel quite familiar. Standing on the other sideline will be Pine Tree Conference champion Winslow, the same team that Mountain Valley beat, 21-7, in 2004 for its first title in school history.

Some observers see the game as another classic battle of speed vs. power, like the one two years ago. The 10-1 Black Raiders run a big-play option offense led by shifty all-purpose back Justin Lindie and heady QB Stephen Siviski that is averaging 43 points per game. The defense, led by middle linebacker Kevin McCabe, swarms to the ball from all angles and has surrendered an average of 7 ppg over the last month.

“They’re the best team we’ve played this year. No question about that,” said Aylward, who has been on the sideline for all five state finals in the school’s history. “I think we match up well up front. We have kids who make big plays and so do they. They have three excellent linebackers. I think we have three or four excellent linebackers. I think it’s a great match-up.”

Unbeaten Mountain Valley rolled through Western Maine, outscoring opponents 444-26 in 11 games. The offense, steered by QB Andy Shorey, is the most versatile in the school’s history. Tailback Devin Roberts leaves would-be tacklers grabbing air and all-purpose back Justin Staires is, like Lindie, a game-breaker.

But the Falcons’ calling card is their defense, which tossed seven shutouts this year. Tackles Kyle Dow and Thaddeus Bennett and ends Shorey and Steve Lizotte stifle the run and pressure the passer. Linebackers Zach Bradley, Matt Laubauskas, John Perry and Matt Glover punish the rare ball-carrier that makes it past the front four. And the ball-hawking secondary of Staires, Derek Sicotte and Dean McCrillis make big plays by the opposing offense a virtual impossibility.

“They’re an outstanding team,” said Winslow coach Mike Siviski, who is leading the Black Raider to the eighth championship game of his 22-year tenure. “They have an ability to throw the ball deep. They have a real nice running game. Their defense is really mobile. They have a lot of kids that can bring it.”

As highly-anticipated as this clash has been, much of the rumbling in the week leading up to it has been that Mountain Valley had too easy of a time of it in the Campbell Conference. Many pointed to the PTC as the deeper, stronger league. It’s a common “Yeah, but” argument heard when the merits of most Mountain Valley teams are debated, but Aylward isn’t buying any of it.

“I have too much respect for the other nine coaches to point at their programs and say ‘Not competitive enough with Mountain Valley,'” Aylward said. “I thought our league was much better this year. Was it the best league in the state? Nope. But it got more competitive this year.”

“I don’t like that kind of talk,” he added. “I don’t care who we played, to be honest. We had to play hard. We’ve worked hard

Siviski, for his part, agreed that who the teams played the last 11 weeks will have little impact on what transpires tonight at Fitzpatrick.

“I feel our league as a whole is a little stronger than their league. However, I don’t know that that makes a difference,” Siviski said.

It won’t make any difference once what will be the finale of the 2006 high school football season kicks off, Aylward said.

“It’s going to be a hundred-play game,” he said. “The last one may seem like the most significant or the 50th may seem like the most significant when all is said and done. But each one of those plays is just as valuable. We want to win the majority of those hundred plays.”


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