The eight-man football class is only six weeks old. But it’s fair to say Friday night will see its most anticipated game yet.

When Mt. Ararat visits Maranacook’s Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams, it’ll be a showdown between eight-man’s top offense (Mt. Ararat has averaged 43.7 points per game) and defense (Maranacook has allowed only 14.3 points per contest), as well as the class’s top two teams. The Black Bears are the lone undefeated team at 6-0, while the Eagles are 5-1.

And, to top it off, it’s also a rematch, as Mt. Ararat’s lone loss came to Maranacook in a 38-18 decision on Sept. 14. Both coaches said their teams’ records are a reflection of their ability to focus on each opponent week to week, but they also admitted their players have been looking forward to this game for a while.

Mt. Ararat’s Holden Brennan tries to elude Yarmouth defender AJ Michalski during a Sept. 27 game in Yarmouth. Portland Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette Buy this Photo

“We’ve been preaching one game at a time this year,” Mt. Ararat coach Frank True said, “…but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a little extra for this week, knowing that Maranacook was undefeated. I’ve been telling our kids, ‘If you don’t have a little bit of a bad taste in your mouth after our first meeting, then I don’t know who you are.’ ”

Over in Readfield, the feeling’s the same.

“We went into their home place. (You think) how sweet it would be for them to get fired up, come into our place and give us our first loss,” Black Bears coach Jordan DeMillo said. “I could sit here all day and tell you my kids are fine, they’re not affected by it. They’re 100 percent affected by it. You can only say that you’re not affected and mean it so many times.”


Here’s a closer look at Mt. Ararat-Maranacook:

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Where: Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams, Readfield

Mt. Ararat coach Frank True on Maranacook: “We’re looking forward to it. That Maranacook team, they’re big, they’re fast, they’re well-coached. They play well in all three phases of the game, so it’s going to be a heck of a challenge for our kids come Friday night.”

Maranacook coach Jordan DeMillo on Mt. Ararat: “Coach True’s done a really good job with that program. They’re very physical. If you can’t go toe-to-toe with physicality with Mt. Ararat in the first quarter, you’re already behind the 8-ball on it.”

Three keys for Mt. Ararat:


• Spy or otherwise contain Garit Laliberte. The Black Bears quarterback was on top of his game in the first matchup, accounting for 366 combined yards through the air and on the ground. It was one of the senior’s best games, and the Eagles have to make the sure the rematch is a more uphill battle for him.

• Be ready for contact. The switch from 11-man to eight-man has turned Maranacook from an undersized team to one of the bigger ones in the class, and True knows that giving up a size advantage can’t be an excuse for being less physical.

“We didn’t match up that well the first time with their big receivers,” he said. “We’ve practiced a bunch this week about trying to match some of their physicality.”

• Make them earn it. Mt. Ararat has to make sure whatever yards the Black Bears get are painstakingly gained. Quick drives and big plays run up the score, and force the Eagles offense to try to win a shootout against the class’s stingiest defense. That’s not a recipe for success.

Three keys for Maranacook:

• Have a backup plan ready. The Black Bears’ offense runs through Laliberte, but Maranacook has to be ready for a defense that’s going to be hell-bent on keeping him in check. Maranacook needs to have screens and quick passes ready, or just a gameplan that emphasizes another player to take the pressure off of the quarterback.

• Wrap up. DeMillo said the Eagles — running back Riley Morin in particular — love to shake off tacklers and bounce off their hits, and in the passing game, to do damage once the ball is in their hands. Arm tackling won’t do it; the Black Bears will need form tackling to put the clamps on a high-scoring offense.

“They are probably the best team at yards after contact,” DeMillo said. “After first contact, they break it. Game after game after game, I’ve watched teams make good first contact and they don’t wrap up, they don’t get proper tackling on them, and these kids run for another 60, 70 yards for a touchdown. Form tackling is crucial against these guys.”

• Don’t ignore special teams. The Black Bears got a little sloppy in this department in the teams’ last meeting, allowing Holden Brannan to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown. This game should be close, and Maranacook can’t afford to make it harder on itself by giving up points in this fashion.

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