The Wells High School football team may be the popular pick for the Class D championship game Saturday, but coach Tim Roche isn’t buying it.

“I guess everyone would call us a favorite, and that’s fine,” he said. “I don’t know in high school football how you tell a favorite. I just think any week somebody can beat somebody.”

The Warriors’ resume entering their clash with North champion Foxcroft Academy (8-2), however, is pretty intimidating. Wells is the defending Class C champion, undefeated at 11-0 in its first season in Class D, and in the state championship game after romping their way to a 34-12 victory over Madison — a team that beat Foxcroft 49-28 earlier in the season.

So the expectations are high for Wells. But if that means more pressure, Roche said his players don’t feel it.

“I don’t think these kids know what pressure is,” he said. “They’re a loose-knit group who just want to play football and win. I don’t see a lot of pressure on them or them even thinking they’re the favorites.”

Winning one more game and wrapping up a second-straight title will require prevailing in a game that has set itself up as a showdown of offense vs. defense. On one side are the Ponies, who are averaging a Class D-best 39.9 points per game. On the other are the Warriors, who are allowing only 7.8 points per game and whose total of 86 points allowed is the second-lowest in the entire state (behind only Fryeburg Academy, which allowed 77 in 10 games).

Foxcroft coach Dan White knows the problems posed by the Wells defense, which, led by linebackers Nolan Potter and Sean McCormack-Kuhman and a relentless defensive line, swarms to the ball and seals off any hole through which to run.

“It would be very difficult for us to line up and try to play (a run-heavy) game, with how they play defense,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to be fast and make some plays down the field, and give ourselves an opportunity to pick up some chunk plays. Give our offense a chance to sustain the ball and maintain possessions.”

Roche isn’t predicting an easy game for his defense either. Not against a Ponies offense led by receiver Hyatt Smith, who has 31 catches for 688 yards and 11 touchdowns, and quarterback Nick Clawson, who became the first in Foxcroft history to pass and run for 1,000 yards in a season and who has run for 18 touchdowns and thrown for 14 more.

“It makes for a good matchup. It’s a challenge for our D, and our D likes that,” Roche said. “Offensively it runs through the QB, and he’s a very good player, both a running and passing threat.”

Those units get the attention, but Foxcroft’s defense vs. Wells’s offense is far from an undercard. The Ponies have posted back-to-back shutouts this postseason, and the Warriors’ running game of Potter up the middle and Tyler Bridge around the outside — with quarterback Michael Wrigley able to throw when needed — has churned up one opponent after another.

“Their defense has been solid. They’ve shut teams down over the last few weeks,” Roche said. “That’s what we’ve focused on, what their defense is going to do. … They’re physical.”

White is just as wary of the Wells offense, to the point of feeling that how his defense measures up will determine whether his team can pull the upset.

“Our run defense has got to be sound. We’ve got to put bodies on people and we’ve got to tackle well,” he said. “They’re a run-heavy football team, and very good at it. So there’s no question we’ve got to take on blocks well, we’ve got to use low leverage and sound technique, and get ourselves in position to make the tackle.

“We’ve got to be able to do that consistently throughout the game if we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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