PORTLAND – John Hersom tried not to go down memory lane as his Lawrence Bulldogs prepared for the Class A state championship football game.

Saturday morning, however, the former Edward Little standout couldn’t help but reminisce as he strolled along the Fitzpatrick Stadium sidelines.

“When we came on the field, we were wearing white shirts and were on this sideline,” said Hersom of the visiting teams sideline just before the hum of traffic on Route 295. “This is where I ended my senior year, on this sideline.”

Hersom finished his high school career with a second straight state title in 1977 in Portland. He earned his first state victory as a head coach with a 14-13 win over Gorham on the same field to cap off an unbeaten season for the Bulldogs. It was the first Class A state title for an Eastern Maine team since Bangor won in 2001, and just the second in two decades.

When Doc Hersom won back-to-back state titles in the 1970’s, he had two sons, John and Jim, on the team. His son achieved the same feat sharing Saturday’s win with three sons, Mike, Tom and Jack.

“As a player, that’s great but to be down here this time as a coach, I’m still searching for words. It’s exciting,” said Hersom, who won a Class D state title as an assistant coach at Oak Hill in 1982. “It’s great these kids can experience this. I wish every high school kid can experience this. It’s just a joy to be part of this and be associated with a great group of kids like this.”

Lawrence took the early lead thanks to a Gorham fumble on the opening kickoff, and then held off the Rams in the second half. Gorham’s hopes to rally were thwarted when Aaron Champagne blocked a point-after attempt after a Ram touchdown that made it 14-13. Gorham had another crack at the lead when the Rams attempted a 47-yard field goal on fourth-and-eight with 3:55 left. Anders Nielsen’s kick fell well short and the Bulldogs managed to run out the clock.

Gorham was plagued by two fumbles and a critical penalty on its final drive. Lawrence, on the other hand, had no turnovers.

“We knew we had to keep our heads,” said Hersom. “You have to have enough composure and that was a big part of our success.”

Champage lead the Bulldogs with two touchdowns and 81 yards on 16 carries.

He also had the block on Nielsen’s point-after attempt.

“I’ve been coaching for 24 years, and I’ve never coached an athlete like that in the game of football,” said Hersom. “He’s got heart. He’s smart. He’s a leader on and off the football.”

A fumble recovered by Joseph Rainey on the opening kickoff, set Lawrence up on the 29. It took seven plays before Champagne took it around the right side for a 6-yard run and 6-0 lead with 9:30 left in the quarter.

“Our team has hit hard all season long,” said Champagne. “Our special teams have played big for us. It’s definitely a big key to the game when your special teams make big plays like that.”

Gorham had its best success offensively when its passing game helped open things up. Both Rams touchdowns came by air on passes by Mark Clements, who has Edward Little ties as well through cousins Tom and Calvin Hunter, both former Red Eddies. Clements hit Justin Villacci on a 55-yard pass play with 3:59 left in the quarter. Nielsen kicked the extra point for the 7-6 lead. Villacci finished with 78 yards on 21 carries while Clements threw for 128 yards on six completions.

Lawrence took the lead back with 7:05 left in the half when Champagne broke free on a sweep to the right for 36 yards. He rushed the conversion for a 14-7 lead.

Gorham controlled much of the second half. After one lengthy drive was stopped on fourth-and-two, the Rams scored with 11:53 left in the game. Clements hit Villacci again on a 39-yard strike to get within 14-13. Lawrence had tried a particular formation for the first time on Gorham’s first extra point. The second time, it worked, taking advantage of Champagne’s quickness and ability to break through a hole in the middle.

“Our line did a good job opening up the seam,” said Champagne. “I saw an opening and just went in.”

Gorham got the ball back and had another chance. The Rams marched down to the 24 and faced fourth-and-three but a motion penalty pushed them back.


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