Six of the eight teams playing in the state high school football championship games are regular participants in recent years. In Classes B and D, Marshwood and Wells are going for repeat titles. Thornton Academy, Portland, Brunswick, and Foxcroft Academy also have played in a state game within the last three seasons.

Then there’s Nokomis and Fryeburg, who will meet in the Class C championship game. Both are first time state game participants.

“They’re not too fancy,” Nokomis head coach Jake Rogers said of Fryeburg. “I like the matchup, because they’re a lot like us. They’re not going to over-glamor you. They’re hard-nosed. They seem very blue collar to me.”

Nokomis and Fryeburg will kick off at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland at 2:30 p.m.

A varsity football team since 2007, Nokomis advanced to the state final with a 13-6 win over Hermon in the Big 11 Conference championship. Fryeburg is playing for its first state title since 1963, won before a championship game was instituted. The Raiders — who defeated Leavitt 20-13 in the Class C South final — have been building for this moment in recent seasons.

“We’ve been in the (regional) semifinals four straight years. Every step you take, there’s more of a buzz,” Fryeburg coach David Turner said. “We’ve been pretty solid the last couple of years. This senior group, a lot of them played last year. We weren’t exactly sure what we had, but we knew we’d be competitive.”

The turnaround for Nokomis has been more drastic. After back-to-back seasons in Class B North, the Warriors were reclassified in Class C for 2017. Last season, Nokomis won six games in the regular season and fell in the first round of the playoffs. This season, the Warriors went 4-4 against a tougher schedule, playing six teams that qualified for the postseason, and hit their stride in the playoffs.

“We felt pretty good after that win Saturday. The confidence keeps building, and it should. Our guys are playing pretty good football right now, and you don’t get to this point in the season without being confident,” Rogers said.

Both teams enter the state game playing excellent defense. Nokomis shut out top seed and defending state champ Maine Central Institute in the regional semifinals, 13-0, before holding No. 2 Hermon to just one touchdown in the regional final. MCI and Hermon were the two highest scoring teams in the conference.

“I’ve seen (Nokomis) a few times on film. We thought Nokomis was a physical football team,” Turner said. “They kind of look like us in a lot of ways. It seems like they kind of roll with their defense.”

The Raiders gave up 36 points to Lisbon in a season-opening loss. Fryeburg hasn’t lost since, allowing a combined 59 points in 10 games. Rogers is impressed by Fryeburg’s 3-4 defensive attack, which is led by senior linebacker Tucker Buzzell.

“I enjoy watching them on defense. They’re very sound. It’s a different scheme than us but I feel like they execute at such a high level, like we want our guys to,” Rogers said. “Everything they do is sound. They’re not guessing. A lot of the same mantras we tell our kids. Don’t guess, read. See what’s in front of you.”

Nokomis has enjoyed offensive success on the ground, with backs David Wilson and Alex Costedio leading the way, as well as in the air, with quarterback Andrew Haining finding open receivers Chance Graves, Brock Graves and Tyler Pelletier.

“They a very athletic team,” Turner said.

Like Nokomis, Fryeburg’s offense is diverse. Quarterback Oscar Saunders can throw and run, while running back Calvin Southwick is a blend of power and speed. Tight end Liam Harriman is a top Saunders target, and Rogers said his defense needs to be wary of Harriman getting open down the seam.

“It’s very similar to defending Hermon, except they’re in a tight end set more, two tight. They don’t throw a lot, but the kid (Saunders) can throw. It seems like they can throw hitch any time they need five yards,” Rogers said.

Defensively, the Warriors are led by James Boyd on the line, Wilson and Quinton Richards at linebacker, and Chance and Brock Graves at corner. For two teams not used to playing on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the enthusiasm for Saturday’s game built all week.

“I think people are excited and the kids are excited,” Turner said. “I’m just trying to keep them focused on the task at hand.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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