All season, Luke Knight and his teammates on the Waterville Senior High School football team’s offensive line have enjoyed running over opponents and making holes as big as intersections for their running backs.
All season, Aaron Lint and his teammates on the Winslow defensive line have enjoyed plugging gaps and giving opposing running backs less space than is found in a clown car.
Waterville’s offensive line is a big reason the Purple Panthers average almost 47 points per game, the most in Class C. Winslow’s defensive line is a big reason the Black Raiders allow just under 12 points per game, second only to Leavitt in Class C.
These rivals meet Saturday afternoon at Waterville’s Drummond Field. It’s the first time since 2010 the Battle of the Bridge is a regular-season game, and with Winslow (7-0) and Waterville (6-1) both fighting for home-field advantage in the Big Ten Conference playoffs, the guys doing the dirty work up front provide the most intriguing matchup of the game.“
Most games are won up front, actually, when you really look at it. That will be a great challenge for us,” Winslow head coach Mike Siviski said.
Waterville’s offense line is a veteran group. Three of the five starters — Knight (a guard), center Ben Cox, and tackle Duncan Works, returned from last season, and others, like Dante Herman and Todd Serbent, saw playing time.
“We have a lot of experience,” Cox said. “We all know our assignments and who to pick up. We communicate on the line pretty well.”
That experience takes a hit this week, with Corey Huerfano out with an injury.
“We’re looking for guys to step up,” Waterville head coach Frank Knight said.
The Panthers’ best game this season was two weeks ago, a 20-19 win at Foxcroft Academy. The Panthers ran for 231 yards against a strong Ponies defense, and when Waterville needed to run out the clock in the final minutes, it did.
After Foxcroft scored to cut Waterville’s lead to one point with 1:53 left in the game, Waterville’s line blocked well enough to gain 19 yards over three plays, running out the clock.
“It was really close towards the end. We had to buckle down together and make those last plays that counted. That’s when they were magnified,” Luke Knight said. “They were really important plays, and we had to come together to make it happen.”
The Panthers offensive line is big and quick, and the Black Raiders are prepared to face that speed as a unit.
“We function well as a unit. We don’t like to play individual football,” Winslow sophomore defensive lineman Nat Beckwith said.
Added Lint: “We have some speed, too. I know the offensive line for Waterville does have some speed, and they know how to block. Their technique’s good. It will be a really tough matchup.”
Lint is 285 pounds. Beckwith is 230. Both can move, and both provide tough matchups for the Panthers.
“Whoever’s blocking (Lint) has to keep on it so he can’t chase down the play. We’ll try to push him out of the holes. We’ll do whatever we can,” Cox said.
The Winslow defensive line’s best game may have been against Mt. Desert Island on Sept. 21. The Trojans attack out of a T formation, with three backs capable of running all over the place if they get any space at all. Against Winslow, running room was hard to come by for MDI.
“All year long, since a week into practice, I felt like we all connected. We’ve even gotten better,” Lint said.
MDI gained 165 of its 265 yards rushing on three players. Aside from those plays, the Black Raiders held the Trojans to barely 3 yards per carry, and cruised to a 49-18 win.
“We’ve had some good games. We’ve stood up pretty good. They’ll be challenged, because Waterville’s offensive line is very, very good,” Siviski said.
Both teams agree, a close game against a good opponent is just want you want heading into the playoffs.
“We’re really excited to see each other, obviously,” Luke Knight said. “I know those guys are pretty good over there.”
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242