READFIELD — The Maranacook football team may not have played its best game of the season Friday night, but the Black Bears bested two opponents.
Ellsworth/Sumner, and themselves.
Maranacook topped the Eagles 44–12 in an Eight-Man Large semifinal at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams. The Black Bears (9-0) will meet the winner of Saturday’s game between Mt. Ararat-Yarmouth for the right to play in the state’s first 8-Man championship.
Garit Laliberte led the way for Maranacook, rushing for 139 yards on 19 carries, scoring three touchdowns. He also threw for 57 yards and a score.
Maranacook scored on its first three possessions of the game, highlighted by a 13-yard scoring toss from Laliberte to receiver Isac Philbrook. But the Black Bears struggled in the second quarter on defense, giving up touchdown runs of 57 and 33 yards to Ellsworth running back Connor Crawford. Maranacook entered halftime with a 22-12 lead.
Crawford led the Eagles (3-6) with 189 yards rushing on 31 carries.

“The first half (offensively) is usually a test and we’re feeling the waters, figuring out what the defensive weakness is,” Laliberte said. “We just need to stick to the game plan, run the ball out.”

“I don’t know how we follow one of our best games of the season with literally our worst quarter of the season,” Maranacook coach Jordan DeMillo said. “I just told (the team) it wasn’t our brand of football. It was mental mistakes. The good thing about mental mistakes is you can fix those. There’s nothing we couldn’t fix. (Ellsworth) wasn’t beating us, we were beating ourselves.”
But the Black Bears took over in the second half. Laliberte scored twice on the ground — including a scoring run of 43 yards — to help lengthen the lead. Maranacook’s defense also stepped up in the second half, and sealed the game late in the fourth quarter, when Philbrook intercepted a Crawford pass.
Mark Thibodeau contributed offensively for Maranacook, rushing for 77 yards on five carries, along with a touchdown. Wide receiver Joey Dupont added a 42-yard scoring run on a reverse in the first half.
It was the second time this season the two teams met. The Black Bears also topped the Eagles 22-12 in Readfield on Oct. 4.
Whoever the Black Bears face next week, it will be the third meeting Maranacook has had with either Mt. Ararat or Yarmouth. The Black Bears beat Mt. Ararat 38-18 on Sept. 4, and again in perhaps their most exciting game of the season, a 34-24 victory for homecoming on Oct. 14.
Maranacook beat Yarmouth 14-12 on Sept. 20 and then picked up a 44-12 win over the Clippers in the regular-season finale Oct. 25.
“We just need to clean the little things up (next week),” Laliberte said. “We’ll make long drives and then shoot ourselves in the foot. Make a mental mistake, whether that’s a penalty, or fumbling the ball. Those are just drive killers.”

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