Three things I love about high school football playoffs in Maine:

• At least 25 percent of the crowd is wearing blaze orange.

• No pumpkin spice in the sideline Gatorade buckets.

• I get to make fresh predictions that hopefully make everyone forget my, uh, off-target preseason predictions (they’ve been erased from the internet. Don’t even try.)

So here they are, for entertainment purposes only, my 2019 high school football playoff predictions:

Class A

Thornton Academy over Scarborough

Barring any catastrophes in the regular season finale, these two and Bonny Eagle will be the only teams with a reasonable shot of winning Class A (the more things change, et cetera, et cetera). Currently-unbeaten Thornton will likely be the No. 1 seed, and Livermore Falls native Kevin Kezal appears to have his defending champs peaking at the right time again. Perhaps just as important is the Trojans showed earlier this season that they are capable of handling adversity and won’t panic if they get behind. They are balanced and deep, capable of quick strikes in the passing game, led by QB Kobe Gaudette, or grinding out long drives in the running game. I’m taking Scarborough over Bonny Eagle because the Red Storm have unleashed Jarett Flaker after wisely limiting his exposure to wear-and-tear early in the season.

Class B

North: Brunswick over Lawrence
South: Marshwood over Kennebunk
State: Marshwood over Brunswick

Brunswick dominated B North this year with its usual relentless ground game. The Dragons have been held below 47 points once all season, by Windham. Perhaps Cony’s stingy defense can do the same, but Lawrence, which lost to the Dragons 50-21 earlier this season, will bounce the Rams in the semifinals. Marshwood has been even more dominant in the South despite the addition of a number of former Class A programs to the schedule. The Hawks’ only hiccup was a one-point loss to Thornton Academy. Many believed graduation losses would sap some of their offensive firepower, but they’ve been even more prolific behind quarterback Connor Caverly and fullback Justin Bryant. And for all of its speed and big-play ability, Kennebunk’s offense barely managed 200 total yards in a 48-14 loss to Marshwood two weeks ago. The gap between the Hawks and the rest of Class B may be as big as it’s every been. Just move them up to Class A already. Enrollment is a false god.

Class C

North: MCI over Winslow
South: Leavitt over Wells
State: Leavitt over MCI

With the exception of their 18-6 Week 1 loss to Wells, Winslow has barely had to break a sweat in the second half of any of its games. QB Colby Pomeroy and RB Rob Clark lead the state’s highest-scoring offense (52.9 points per game), but the Black Raiders are loaded at the skill positions and, maybe more importantly, at the line of scrimmage. MCI did make the Black Raiders work for most of their Oct. 11 matchup in Pittsfield, leading 19-14 at halftime, but turned the ball over and couldn’t stop Winslow in the second half in what turned out to be a runaway 61-37 win for the Raiders. The Huskies haven’t given up a point in two games since, and they were very banged up for the first meeting. If they are healthy again, I’ll take them in an upset.

Leavitt played much of the second half of the season without injured tailbacks Allen Peabody and Dasean Calder, but their return will give QB Wyatt Hathaway an arsenal that even Winslow can’t match. Some believe Leavitt exposed Wells in its 22-8 win on Oct. 12, and point to last week’s 48-27 loss to York as further proof. The Wildcats earned the No. 2 seed and home field in a possible semifinal rematch with that win, but I refuse to believe that Wells coach Tim Roche pulled out all the stops in that one, and I believe the Warriors will have enough to disrupt York standout QB Teagan Hynes in the semis but not enough to block Hathaway and a hungry senior class from their first trip to the state title game in five years.

Class D

North: Bucksport over Dexter
South:  Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale over Oak Hill
State: WMHD over Bucksport

This may be the final season of Class D as we know it. A number of teams, particularly in the North, could make the move to eight-man football next season. It only seems like Bucksport has been playing 11-on-8 all season, outscoring its opponents 287-27. But the Golden Bucks did win a 21-14 crossover squeaker over Oak Hill, so they should be prepared in the event someone in the North gives them a scare.

WMHD has dominated the South, not quite as convincingly, but with a 37.7 ppg average margin of victory, nevertheless. The Ramblers boast a balanced offense led by QB Keegan Choate and a bevy of weapons on offense, so opposing defenses can’t focus stopping one or two players. The defense has posted three shutouts and allowed only 7.7 ppg since surrendering 38 points to MCI in their opening-night loss. Lisbon, Oak Hill and Spruce Mountain have all taken turns playing the role of the Ramblers’ most likely nemesis during the regular season, but the Raiders always seem to play their best in November, so I’ll take them narrowly over the Greyhounds in the semis.

Eight-man

Large school: Maranacook over Mt. Ararat
Small school: Boothbay over Old Orchard Beach
State: Maranacook over Boothbay

Maranacook and Mt. Ararat have clearly been the two best teams in eight-man football’s inaugural season. It’s a shame that they won’t be playing for the first state title, so hopefully the Maine Principals’ Association can address the playoff format in the next year or two as more schools take the plunge. Overall, though, it’s been a successful season, with a lot more competitive games and all 10 teams having a legitimate shot at the playoffs in Week 8. Long live eight-man football!


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