Waterville’s John Evans hits a pad during a practice earlier this season in Waterville. The Purple Panthers are in the hunt for a spot in the Class C North playoffs. Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

With back-to-back wins, Waterville improved to 3-3, and the Purple Panthers are firmly in the Class C North playoff chase. After Saturday’s 49-26 win over Messalonskee, Waterville coach Matt Gilley said his team has shown a lot of improvement over the last three weeks.

“After that Winslow game (a 54-13 loss in week three), we really sat together as a team and sort of had to look ourselves in the mirror. What did we want this season to look like? We lost some key players early on, but we have some guys stepping up. We had to make a decision,” Gilley said.

Gilley saw improvement in a 26-21 loss at Nokomis, and the back-to-back wins over Medomak Valley and Messalosnkee showed the Panthers their hard work is paying off.

“We as a coaching staff have been extremely impressed with what the guys have decided to do. I say it all the time, but it’s the effort level,” Gilley said. “It’s the attitude that they bring. In high school sports, sometimes you just need a little bit to spark that, and the Nokomis game was that spark.”

Gilley said the defensive effort has stood out in the recent wins.

“When you play physical defense, especially against a well-coached wing-T team like Messalonskee, you know they’re going to be sharp. It’s going to be tight. If you’re not paying attention, they’re going to get by you. Our guys were up for the physical challenge. The scoreboard told the tale,” Gilley said.

With its home field undergoing renovations, Messalonskee’s game at Waterville was technically a home game for the Eagles. That scheduling quirk means Waterville is home for the final four games of the regular season. That extended home stand continues Saturday when the Panthers host Hermon (5-1).

• • •

After a two-year absence, Mt. Blue (3-3) is in excellent shape to make the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs. The Cougars are in fourth place in the regional standings, and much improved from last season’s one-win team. That said, coach Nate Quirion knows the Cougars can be better.

“We’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde team,” Quirion said.

At home on Caldwell Field, the Cougars are 3-0, with an average margin of victory of 24 points. On the road, Mt. Blue is 0-3, losing by an average of 32 points.

“At home, we have a comfort level, and we haven’t found that on the road yet,” Quirion said. “It’s certainly been a process. Our young men have worked very hard.”

In the final two regular season games, Quirion wants to see more consistency. The Cougars host Messalonskee (0-6) Friday, and close the regular season at Skowhegan (4-2).

“We’re still in the growth phase here,” Quirion said. “We’re learning you can’t put a bench press on the 50-yard line.”

• • •

When cross-class games became more prevalent in the 2017 season, the Maine Principals’ Association made Heal Points the scoring system for determining playoff positioning, rather than Crabtree Points. While Crabtree Points are calculated by adding a team’s winning percentage to the winning percentage of its opponents, Heal Points are earned by beating teams, not just playing them.

For the most part, the standings in the PTC Class B would be the same if Crabtree Points were applied rather than Heals. Skowhegam, Brunswick, and Cony are still the top three, with Skowhegan’s wins over both Brunswick and Cony the biggest reason the Indians are in first place. Under Crabtree Points, Lawrence (2-4) would jump into fourth place ahead of Mt. Blue (3-3), despite a loss to the Cougars. The biggest factor in Lawrence’s favor is a game against Class B South leader Marshwood (6-0).

Heal Points reward wins, and nowhere is that more evident than in Class C North, the Big Eleven Conference. In the Heal Point standings, Old Town (2-4) is ranked 10th. The Coyotes wins are over John Bapst (1-5) and Gray-New Gloucester (0-6), neither of which are worth many points in the Heal system.

But using Crabtree Points, Old Town jumps to eighth place, the final playoff seed. That’s because the Coyotes have played three teams currently 5-1: Maine Central Institute, Hermon, and Dirigo. Crabtree Points don’t take into account that Dirigo is in the Class E developmental league, or that the Cougars beat Old Town. Crabtrees just care that the Coyotes played Dirigo, and the outcome s irrelevant.

Had Old Town defeated Dirigo, it would have helped, but wins over teams in a lower division arent worth as many points.

No system is perfect, but with so many teams playing non-conference games, rewarding wins appears to be the fairest system for Maine high school football.

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Around the state: With two weeks left in the regular season, there are five undefeated teams: Thornton Academy (Class A) Marshwood (Class B), Kennebunk (Class B), Foxcroft Academy (Class D) and Wells (Class D). Marshwood must beat Biddeford and Kennebunk must beat Falmouth this weekend to set up an undefeated battle between the two in week eight… How dominant has Thornton Academy been? The 13 points the Trojans allowed in Saturday’s 35-13 win over previously undefeated Scarborough is one less point than the team allowed in its first five games combined… This week’s game of the year is Portland (5-1) at Oxford Hills (5-1). The Bulldogs and Vikings play with the top spot in Class A North on the line.

Staff Writer Travis Barrett contributed to this report.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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