AUBURN — Gage St. Hilaire-Fecteau and Dan Williams are both the prototypical high-motor offensive defensive lineman, and that isn’t just a good thing for the Edward Little defense.

The two seniors are good friends, too, and the emotional leaders of a Red Eddies defense that has been the key to clinching their first Eastern Class A playoff appearance since 2010.

Both hate ever having to leave the field, even though it means the Eddies have the ball. Both relish chasing quarterbacks and running backs and forcing the offensive linemen across from them into mistakes. And sometimes they can’t wait until the ball is snapped to get their hands on them.

“It’s good they have (a lot of energy) because sometimes it’s one having to hold the other one down between plays,” EL coach Dave Sterling said.

“We have to get going,” Williams said. “If we don’t get going, no one else does. That’s how the game starts.”

Williams loves being on the spot where every play starts, lining up across from the center and mixing it up the trenches even though he is an undersized nose tackle, 5-foot-10 and generously listed at 185 pounds.

“If you look at him, size-wise, he doesn’t match up with anyone,” Sterling said.

But Williams, an all-PTC selection last year, has been among the leading tacklers in the conference the past two years. This year, he leads the league in sacks with nine, including three last week against Deering. Two of those came on back-to-back plays as the Rams were threatening to tie the game and clinched a 21-14 win for the Eddies.

“The quarterback, he’s my man,” Williams said. “It just comes naturally, I guess. I don’t really have a technique. I just get in there. I know I can’t let my team down.”

St. Hilaire-Fecteau is a defensive tackle who switches to the end in some sets. He’s 5-foot-8, 220 pounds, one of the strongest players on the team, and as competive as the person next to him, whether it’s on the field or off.

“Gage has done a tremendous job in the weight room,” Sterling said. “During the off-season, he worked out with me every day, five days a week in the weight room. He got quite upset because I could outlift him at times.”

The duo does a lot of the heavy lifting on the Eddies’ five-man front. Their job description is to collapse the pocket against the pass and keep blockers occupied and free up others to make plays against the run.

“Our biggest job is to try to get penetration and try to stop them before they get through us,” said St. Hilaire-Fecteau, who has three sacks. “We’re both really aggressive.  Our defense is based on the linebackers getting most of the tackles…”

“But we find a way,” Williams interjected.

PTC powerhouses Cheverus and Portland scored at or below their average against the Eddies. But the rest of the league (plus crossover opponent Noble) has averaged just 15 points per game against them, and they are 3-2 in those games.

Sterling points to Williams’ and St. Hilaire-Fecteau’s adaptability as the keys to the defense. While most teams use a couple of different defensive sets, EL will use as many as a half-dozen.

“When we played Bangor, the reason why we played so well (in a 16-13 season-opening loss) was we moved Dan to the outside. He gave us a great speed rusher on the edge and gave them a hard time any time they tried to run option or anything off-tackle,” Sterling said. “Sometimes, we’d move Dan inside and Gage outside and Gage would pin the play inside towards Dan or Dan would flush the play inside towards Gage.”

“The two of them do that and make everybody else feed off them,” Sterling said. “It allows our linebackers (Andrew St. Pierre and Caleb Fecteau) to be two of the top tacklers in the league, as well as our defensive backs to make great plays. Ian Mileikis has several interceptions because of quarterbacks being hurried by those two.”

Quarterbacks aren’t the only ones looking for Williams and St. Hilaire-Fecteau when they line up. Their presence and versatility often puts opposing offensive lines on edge, too.

“Our D-line has gotten a lot of penalties from the other team. We get in their heads and they start committing penalties,” St. Hilaire-Fecteau said.

The Red Eddies face another big test Friday night when they meet rival Lewiston. A win and a Bangor loss could mean another home game in the first round of the playoffs next weekend, but Williams and St. Hilaire-Fecteau said a win over the Blue Devils would mean just as much as any postseason rewards.

“Our class, by themselves, hasn’t lost to Lewiston, their 2014 class. We beat them as freshmen and in middle school. We need a win this year. This is what matters,” said St. Hilaire-Fecteau, whose team has lost the last two varsity matchups with Lewiston. “I really hope we win this game, not just for our team but the whole city of Auburn. We all have relatives telling us we’d better win, teachers, coaches… it’s a big thing. This is what everybody looks forward to during football season.”

“I came here freshman year,” Williams said. “I don’t have all of the wins, so I’m expecting one. It’s like a championship game. We get a trophy (the Alan Clark Sr. Memorial Trophy) if we win.”

That could depend on how many trophies Williams, St. Hilaire-Fecteau and the rest of the defense collect first.


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