Dirigo and Maranacook are preparing for a rematch of their Week 3 showdown, which the second-seeded Cougars won 30-14, in the Eight-man Small School South final Friday night in Dixfield.

Both teams enter Friday’s game different from what they were on Sept. 17.

Fifth-seeded Maranacook (4-3) was without starters Chris Reid, Wyatt Douin and Isaiah Churchill, as well as its first lineman off the bench, Parker Douin, because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We went back and watched that game, and it was tough to watch from both sides of the ball,” Maranacook coach Jordan DeMillo said. “Dirigo didn’t even play particularly well against us. We’ve had to tell kids we were missing four, but they still beat us pretty handedly and didn’t play us particularly well. We have to take that film for what it is. There’s some stuff to dissect there, but I am quite a bit more confident knowing we have those guys back.”

Maranacook got the quarantined players back the following Thursday, two days before its matchup with Telstar. The Rebels edged out a 14-12 win, but after that the Black Bears went 4-1, including a 30-6 win over Telstar in last weekend’s semifinal. 

On the other side, Dirigo’s win over Maranacook started a seven-game win streak. The most recent win was a 35-30 victory over Mountain Valley in the regional semifinals.

Cougars coach Craig Collins credits the team’s chemistry as the main reason for the win streak.

“I think it’s that they believe in each other, ” Collins said. “They’re a close group, they don’t care who gets the credit, they just enjoy playing with each other. We’ve talked about being a family, and I really believe we’re close.”

Dirigo (7-2) quarterback Charlie Houghton and running back Curtis Errington are best friends off the field and have excelled on the field, including important contributions to last week’s win over the Falcons. 

“They’re together all the time,” Collins said. “Curtis goes and picks Charlie up for practice and gives him rides home. They’re great friends. And it’s not just those two, it’s everybody. Those two are really close. 

“It really helps because we don’t have to worry about anyone complaining about not getting the ball. If we are realistic, Curtis could have over 1,500 yards running, but he doesn’t. Charlie could have over 2,000 yards throwing the ball, but he doesn’t. Trenton Hutchinson could have over 1,000 yards receiving, but they don’t care. They want to win football games.”

DeMillo said that since Reid returned he has made an impact at quarterback but also on defense. 

“In 2019, a lot of teams in eight-man were run-heavy,” DeMillo said. “We ran a pretty aggressive defense, we ran a 4-4, but at the same time, almost everyone pounded the rock. This year, teams seem to be throwing the ball around. With that being said, at the beginning of the season, Chris Reid wasn’t a part of my defensive schemes. He was a good QB, tall, lanky kid, but we worried about his frame. He’s physical, but you worry about his frame.

“When we went into that Telstar game, I said, ‘We need you in the pass coverage.’ He’s made a huge difference, and since then he’s always guarded the best receiver we go against. Him and Wyatt Churchill have made a big difference, just being able to cover the receivers so our line can pressure their quarterback. They’ve been big in the pass defense and it’s been big this year.” 

The winner of the South final will face the winner of No. 4 Stearns/Schenck and No. 3 Dexter in the Small School final. 

“I think it’s going to be a battle,” DeMillo said. “A really good game.”

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