This season, central Maine’s Battle of the Bridge doesn’t have the same things riding on the outcome as in recent years, but it’s still Winslow versus Waterville, and it’s still an intense rivalry.

Winslow enters the game with a 7-0 record, leading the state in points scored (53 points per game) and fewest points allowed (3.9 ppg). The Black Raiders will be either the one or two seed in the Big Ten Conference playoffs. If Old Town (7-0) defeates Mt. Desert Island (6-1) on Friday, and Winslow wins at Waterville on Saturday, the top seed will be determind by a coin flip between Winslow and Old Town. The Black Raiders and Coyotes did not play each other this season, and all the tiebreakers would be even if both finish the regular season 8-0.

After reaching its conference championship game in each of the last three seasons, in the Pine Tree Conference Class B in 2012, and Big Ten Conference in 2013-14, Waterville has struggled with a young lineup this season. The Purple Panthers are 2-5, and are coming off a 16-0 win over John Bapst of Bangor. With a number of freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, this has been a season of learning on the job for Waterville.

Waterville leads the series with Winslow, 51-32, with four ties. Winslow has won three in a row in the series, including the last two conference championship games. Waterville’s last win over Winslow came in the 2013 regular-season finale.

Here’s a look at the Winslow-Waterville matchup:

Players to watch: Winslow — QB/S Jake Trask, DE Luke Fredete, G/LB Alec Clark, RB/CB Trenton Bouchard, LB Patrick Hopkins. Waterville — RB/DB Demetrius Ramirez, QB/DB Cody Pellerin, OL/DL Brandon Choate, OL/DL Justin Kornsey, RB/DE Devon Begin.

Winslow coach Mike Siviski on Waterville: “You have to be aware of where Ramirez is at all times. They move him around, and they do a good job. I know that they’re young, but it’s the Waterville-Winslow game. They won last week, and I’m sure that they’ll be ready.”

Waterville coach Matt Gilley on Winslow: “Team speed and consistency. They fly around and hit people. If your plan is to run sideline to sideline, they’ve got the guys to hunt you down. They’re a tenacious team that runs their stuff perfectly. They do whatever they want and challenge you to stop it. If you’ve got the athletes to match up, things can go well for you. If not, you’ve got to scheme a little bit.”

Three keys for Winslow:

1. Pound the rock.

With fullback Kenny Rickard, tailback Nate St. Amand, and quarterback Jake Trask running behind a strong offensive line, the Black Raiders have been able to run the ball throughout the season.

2. Key on Ramirez.

Siviski is right. Ramirez, a senior, has been Waterville’s most consistent offensive threat this season. The Black Raiders need to keep an eye on him at all times.

3. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Winslow knows it’s going to the playoffs, but it can’t get caught looking ahead and take the Panthers lightly. Waterville is a young team playing its final game of the season against its biggest rival. If Waterville wants a high note on which to end the season, snapping its rival’s 18-game win streak would be a good way to send off 2015.

Three keys for Waterville:

1. Focus of the fundamentals.

Gilley is stressing to his team a focus on the basics.

“They run a pretty traditional Wing-T style. They throw a hundred formations at you and run a handful of football plays,” Gilley said. “We’re really focusing on the basics, and making sure that you’re just doing what you’ve been taught since you were in youth football. If we do that well, then we have a chance to at least slow their attack.”

2. Mix things up.

On offense, Gilley said the Panthers need to be creative in how they run their base packages.

“Try not to be predictable. Try to figure out physically where we have some advantages,” Gilley said.

3. Solid special teams.

Winslow’s offense has been set up in good field position thoughout the season by its strong defense. Special teams have also been key to Winslow. Waterville can’t let the Black Raiders win the field position battle with long punt returns and kick returns.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

<URL destination=””>[email protected]

</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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