The Battle of the Bridge is a two-part affair — again.

For the second season in a row, rivals No. 1 Winslow (9-0) and No. 2 Waterville (8-1) will meet in the Eastern Class C football championship game. Saturday’s game is the fourth playoff meeting in 10 years between the Black Raiders and Purple Panthers.

“You try to concentrate on what you’re doing, and to heck with the hoopla,” Winslow coach Mike Siviski said about playing Waterville for the second time in less than a month.

“It’s definitely difficult to play them four times in two years. It’s always a challenge. It’s probably one of the biggest rivalries in the state,” Waterville captain Alex Danner said.

In other games featuring area teams, No. 3 Lawrence (8-2) plays at No. 1 Brunswick (8-1) for the Pine Tree Conference Class B title on Friday night at 7 p.m. and top-seeded Maine Central Institute (9-0) hosts No. 2 Bucksport (8-1) in the Little Ten Conference final at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Waterville-Winslow winner will play next Friday night at the University of Maine at Orono in the Class C state championship game. Class A, B and D state games will be Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

“There’s hardware on the line. This is a trip to the state championship. Everybody knows they’ve played in state championships more than most other teams around here. They know championship style and speed of play,” Waterville coach Matt Gilley said of Winslow.

When Winslow hosted Waterville at Poulin Field on Oct. 18, the Black Raiders jumped out to an early 20-point lead on the way to a 35-7 win. This time, the Panthers have to match Winslow’s aggressiveness, Gilley said.

“They came out more intense than we did and that put us on our heels the entire game,” Gilley said. “That set the tone. We’re looking to counter that right off the bat with an equal level on intensity and aggressiveness.”

Winslow’s offense is led by running back Dylan Hapworth, who ran for 1,332 yards in the regular season. Split end Justin Martin had 11 catches, but five went for touchdowns. Trenton Bouchard and Jacob Trask are other top receivers for Winslow. Quarterback Bobby Chenard threw for 359 yards and nine touchdowns.

“I don’t suspect that they’ll change much, because what they do has been very successful this year,” Gilley said.

Waterville’s offense is built around the run. Cam Thomas (1,054 yards) and Dan Pooler (649 yards) lead a talented group of backs that run behind a big, strong and experienced line. Center Ben Cox, tackle Corey Huerfano and guard Danner were all-conference selections.

“They kind of dwarf us, to tell you the truth. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have a good, successful team,” Siviski said. “You have to be impressed with their physicality, with their line and the number of different running backs they’ve used.”

“They’ve got a big line up front. They make some big holes. The backs are pretty quick,” Chenard said. “We’ve just got to prepare well for it.”

Alec Clark leads Winslow’s defense with 49 solo tackles, while Martin has five interceptions. Danner leads Waterville with 56 solo tackles.

Like Waterville, Lawrence’s path to the state game is blocked by an opponent that beat the Bulldogs just a few weeks ago. Lawrence lost its regular season game at Brunswick, 34-14.

“I think one of the things we realized, having played them three weeks ago, is we have to have the right effort and mindset to take the fight to them,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said of playing the Dragons. “We played that way in spurts but not until we got down 20-0.”

Slowing Brunswick’s running game of Will Bessey and Alex Bandouveres is key for Lawrence. In last week’s 27-20 win over Messalonskee, Bessey ran for 369 yards with 305 coming on four long touchdown runs.

“(Bessey) is a very good back. We’ve got to be aware in our pursuit we don’t get a lot of guys out of position,” Hersom said. “If the pursuit overreacts he can cut back. I don’t think we can expect to totally shut him down.”

Lawrence’s offense is led by quarterback Cody Martin, who has strong receivers in Seth Powers and Dustin Simpson-Bragg. Cole Robinson has been the Bulldogs’ lead back since late in the regular season.

A win would put MCI in the state championship game for the first time since 2000. In week three of the regular season, the Huskies broke open a close game in the second half to take a 35-20 win over Bucksport, the defending conference champion.

Bucksport quarterback Matt Stewart led the LTC in passing with 1,030 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hayden Craig and Dylan Soper combined for 633 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in the regular season. Jack Cyr ran for 1,179 and 11 touchdowns for the Golden Bucks.

“They’re multidimensional on offense. They have some good players, not just skill players, but on the line,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said.

If there’s a team in the LTC that has more offensive depth than Bucksport, it’s MCI. Running backs Jonathan Santiago and Eric Hathaway are back from injuries that caused each to miss half the regular season, and the Huskies still averaged 268.5 yards per game on the ground.

Tight end Mitchell Hallee (21 catches for 286 yards, five touchdowns) and receiver Austin Tolman (15 catches for 322 yards, four TDs) are big targets for quarterback Greg Vigue (863 yards, 11 TDs). Fullback Alex Bertrand is strong in the running and passing game.

“We were able to do some things in week three and we hope to build off of those,” coach Bertrand said.

Linebackers Bertrand and Hall, along with Hallee and Hathaway, lead MCI’s defense. Linebacker Tyler Pye and defensive end Asher Bowden lead Bucksport’s defense.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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