Foxcroft Academy football coach Dan White hears the talk. And he’s sure his players have, too.

That the real Class D championship football game was last week’s South title game, in which undefeated Wells topped Madison to win the region. That the Warriors are too tested, too deep, too tough to see their first loss come in Saturday’s state final. That the Ponies, for all their dominance up north, will be outmatched when North meets South and Foxcroft meets that Wells team.

White’s heard it. And he gets it.

“The numbers don’t lie,” he said. “We didn’t fare well in Week 1 against a Madison team that was beaten by Wells twice. So the data doesn’t lie to you that we are the underdogs, and we’re okay with that. We understand that, we certainly wouldn’t expect that anybody would pick us to win the game.”

Foxcroft isn’t alone. Windham will be a heavy underdog in the Class A game against a Scarborough team that cruised through the South bracket and routed the Eagles in the first matchup. Few will give Skowhegan a chance against B South’s Marshwood, which has rolled through an unblemished regular season and playoffs and crushed the Indians in their early showdown. Even in the Class C game in Orono, sixth seed MCI is the likely the underdog against the South’s Cape Elizabeth.

Their coaches know the odds. But they’re not waving a white flag, either.

“They’re very loaded, there’s no two ways about it,” Windham coach Matt Perkins said of the Red Storm. “They’re a good team. But we’re a good team.”

“We definitely feel like the underdog, which isn’t new for us, really,” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said. “We definitely try to embrace that edge and make whatever we can out of it. We know we’re going to be the underdogs, and that’s fine.”

Most fans and followers won’t share the coaches’ optimism. On paper, the formula is there for blowouts in the three Portland championship games, if not all four this weekend. Scarborough (9-1) has earned each of its wins by more than 20 points and avenged its one loss to Thornton Academy by poleaxing the Trojans, 49-7, in the South final, while Windham is 7-4 and was outscored during the regular season. Marshwood (11-0) has outscored its opponents by an average score of 41-12, while Skowhegan dropped three games during the regular season. Wells, the defending Class C champion, just handled Madison, which beat Foxcroft, 49-28, in the Ponies’ one showdown with the South.

Adding to the equation are one-sided results when the championship participants last faced off. Cape Elizabeth beat MCI, 35-15, on Sept. 22. Marshwood beat Skowhegan, 55-12, in the season opener. Scarborough’s meeting with Windham was the most lopsided of them all, a 66-7 win for the Red Storm on October 6.

So on paper, it looks ugly. But games aren’t decided on paper, and championships aren’t decided in September or October.

“I’ve seen really good teams lose before. And I’ve seen teams that maybe don’t match up as well win,” Perkins said. “You can never predict the bounce of the ball sometimes.”

Despite the predictions of a South romp, North coaches don’t feel disrespected. They’re aware of what their opponents have accomplished throughout the season, of the South’s staggering 34-7 record in crossover games, and of the damage they’ve done in their regional brackets to make it to the weekend.

“All the accolades and the respect that they’re getting is well-deserved,” White said. “I don’t think we feel a sense of disrespect. … The numbers don’t support the North very much.”

Still, they’re confident their teams can sidestep the beating many are forecasting — if not win outright. Part of that confidence is rooted in time. Each of those prior matchups happened over a month ago, and coaches are sure a different team will be taking the field Friday and Saturday for the rematch.

“We had some really new guys in there that have really grown up since then,” said Perkins, whose team will have running back Stuart Salom, receiver Hunter Coffin and quarterback/safety Tanner Bernier back at full health after they were hurt for the first Scarborough game. “I’d rather find out what we’re not good at so that we have an opportunity to fix it in the regular season than to find out in the playoffs ‘Boy, we’re really not good in that area.’ Then it’s too late. You’re done.”

Skowhegan has had the entire season to ponder the Marshwood result, and Libby has brought it up often to provide a dose of motivation.

“We’re trying to keep them in tune with (the idea that) that was a long time ago,” Libby said. “It’s easy for us to look at our film week to week and see how much we’ve grown, and I think the kids can gain confidence from that.”

Another edge is the lack of pressure that comes with the underdog label. Being the favorite is nice — provided the team can handle the spike in expectations that comes with it.

“I think you’d have to pretty naive to not consider yourself to be the favorite,” Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko said. “You do the best you can to block that out of your mind. … I think if you ask any coach in any sport, they’re going to say it’s a lot easier to be the underdog than the favorite.”

It’s something the North teams won’t have to worry about. And if they find a way to pull the upset, it’ll likely be the reason why.

“There’s no expectation for us,” Foxcroft’s White said. “The kids can go out there and play loose, play confident and play relaxed. They don’t have to second-guess themselves. They can just go out and play.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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