After going a dozen years between appearances in a regional final, the Waterville Senior High School football team is back in the Eastern Maine championship game for the second straight season.
With Saturday’s 42-27 win over Mt. Desert Island, the Purple Panthers earned a spot in this Saturday’s Eastern Class C championship game at No. 1 Winslow.
“It’s exciting. It’s what we’ve been working for all year,” junior lineman Ben Cox said. “Now we’re here and we have to finish it off.”
This is the first time the rivals will play for a regional title. The Panthers and Black Raiders have met twice in the playoffs, in 2005 and 2006, each time in the regional semifinals. Winslow won both games.
Last season, Waterville played in the Eastern Class B final, losing to eventual state champion Mt. Blue. Prior to that game, Waterville’s last appearance was in 1999, a loss to Oxford Hills. In the Eastern A game.
Waterville defeated Winslow in a wild game on Oct. 26. Each team scored in the final minute of play to take the lead. First Winslow scored with 44 seconds to play to take a 21-18 lead. With 20 seconds left, Waterville answered with the game-winning touchdown.
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Winslow is no stranger to the regional championship round. Since Mike Siviski became head coach in 1985, the Black Raiders have played for their conference’s title 16 times, including this season.
In that time, the Black Raiders are 8-7 in conference championship games, including a win over Lawrence in 1986, when the Pine Tree Conference title game also served as the Class B state championship.
Waterville will be Winslow’s ninth different regional championship game opponent in the Siviski era. The most common opponent has been Belfast. The Black Raiders and Lions played each other four times for a conference title, including three years in a row, 1999-2001. They also met in 2003. Each team won twice.
Winslow played four teams — Lawrence (1986, 1988), Orono (1992, 1994), Brewer (2004-05) and Gardiner (2006-07) — twice for the conference title. One time opponents were Mt. Blue (1988), Old Town (1993), and Dirigo (2012).
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Fifteen of the 16 regional semifinal games played this past weekend were rematches of regular season games. Overall, the second time around was better for the team that won the first meeting.
Only four of the rematches resulted in the first game loser taking the playoff game. Waterville defeated Mt. Desert Island in Eastern Class C. In Western B, Marshwood knocked off York just two weeks after losing to the Wildcats. In Western C, Spruce Mountain avenged an early season loss to Wells. In Western D, Dirigo defeated Winthrop/Monmouth, in the only game to see a regional top seed go down.
We’ll get eight more chances for teams to stick it a regular season opponent it lost to, or reiterate its dominance. All eight regional final games are rematches of regular season contests.
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Around the state: Cheverus of Portland will play in its fifth consecutive regional championship game when it plays crosstown rival Portland on Saturday. The Stags won back-to-back Class A titles in 2010 and 2011… Since losing to Cheverus in Week 1, Portland has won eight straight games by an average of 37 points… If Spruce Mountain upsets Leavitt, it will put the Phoenix in the state game for the first time. Spruce Mountain formed a few years ago with the merger of Jay and Livermore Falls high schools. The last time either of those schools played in the state game was Jay, in 2004…A win over Marshwood would send Kennebunk to the state championship game for the first time since 1999. The Rams lost the Class B gold ball to Belfast that year.