Kramlich: Well, we’ve hit the final week of the regular season already (except for Class D North, which plays into next week). It seems like just last week we were touring all around the area talking to teams during the preseason, but here we are.

There’s a lot yet to be determined in the final week, so we can look ahead to the playoffs next week after everything has shaken itself out. Instead, how about we look back at some of the surprises of the season.

The two things that have surprised me the most are the better-than-I-predicted season Oxford Hills/Buckfield has had, and the struggles of perennial contenders Leavitt and Mt. Blue.

I predicted another down year for the Vikings, even though I thought they had improved. I just thought everyone else had in Class A North, as well. But the Vikings are a win over winless Bangor away from finishing the regular season 4-4. I’ll consider myself proven wrong.

On the flip side, turnover has hurt the Hornets and Cougars. Not so much the fumbles and interceptions (which certainly haven’t helped their respective causes), but I didn’t put enough stock into how many players those two well-coached teams had to replace.

Who has surprised you this season? I know you’re new to the local landscape, but surely some teams have changed your perception of them.

Horton: I didn’t have much upon which to base my perceptions — essentially just the Sun Journal high school football preview. Oxford Hills/Buckfield has been surprising. The Vikings have won some and they’ve lost some, but they just keep plugging away. Think about this: if CJ Jipson doesn’t catch Grant Hartley’s last-second pass, Oxford Hills/Buckfield beats Edward Little, and the Vikings are going for a 5-3 season when they face winless Bangor this week.

This might sound strange, but another team that surprised me is Poland. Yep, 1-6 Poland. I saw the Knights’ scores throughout the season, and I saw them lose to Fryeburg Academy 41-13 two weeks ago. But Poland was better than I expected from a team that has been on the business end of some blowouts. The Knights moved the ball at times and they stopped Fryeburg at times. Poland’s problem was that drives fizzled and defensive mistakes had drastic consequences.

I’m looking forward to becoming more acquainted with the tri-county area’s rivalries, which seem to take center stage this week. Give me a quick rundown of the football rivalries.

Kramlich: Poland had a lot stacked against it this season, with a new coach bringing in a new system, not to mention many new players.

The Knights, though still fairly new to the football scene, have a rivalry with Gray-New Gloucester. It’s called “The Battle of Shaker Hill,” and the victors get to hold onto a trophy in the shape of a shaker chair for a year. Poland would love to keep it in its trophy case for another 12 months.

The big one is obviously Edward Little-Lewiston, which is one of multiple Battle of the Bridges in the state. The rivalry goes back a century or so.

Depending on the year and circumstances, Oak Hill, Lisbon, Dirigo and Winthrop/Monmouth always seem to have a rivalry with at least one of the other three teams.

Since Spruce Mountain is a relatively new combination of Jay and Livermore Falls (which was a big-time rivalry), the Phoenix are still trying to solidify a true rival. With Mountain Valley nearby and the communities having similar demographics, that rivalry could blossom.

Other rivalries around the state include Portland-South Portland and Cony-Gardiner.

What is it about rivalry football games that can allow records to be thrown out and upsets possible? Sometimes the outcomes of rivalry clashes are beyond belief.

Horton: Either one team gets hyped up, and not to its detriment, or one team gets rattled when it makes a mistake. The key, I think, is to get through the first quarter, and maybe even just the first half of the first quarter, without disaster, and then the rivalry calms down and essentially becomes a normal game.

The exciting thing about this week’s rivalries is that both teams in each matchup are fairly well-matched. And in most cases, something important is on the line.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: