A host of WInthrop/Monmouth defenders chase a Messalonskee running back during a football scrimmage Saturday in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

FALMOUTH — With how much roster turnover in the world of Maine high school football this year, there were bound to be some surprises.

Well, we were hit with those surprises immediately — and central Maine teams were at the heart of them Friday night.

First, there was Messalonskee, and it’s hard to say how Blair Doucette’s debut as head coach could have gone much better. Facing a Falmouth team many viewed as a top Class B contender, the Eagles didn’t just win; they thoroughly dominated, posting a 47-8 victory that not even their head coach saw coming.

“We honestly didn’t expect the game to go that way,” Doucette said of his team’s lopsided road win. “They have a really good running back (Indi Backman), and we did well with gap control and run blitzes to contain him. Our skill guys also were able to cover their really fast receivers. It really just all came together perfectly.”

Indeed, Messalonskee was able to neutralize a potent Falmouth offense led by Backman and 6-foot-4 lineman Will Gale. Mitch Marquis and Hayden Pierce racked up a respective 11 and 10 tackles for the Eagles, and Drake Brunelle led the way in the secondary with three interceptions.

Offensively, though, the Eagles were just as impressive. Sam Dube ran the ball 17 times for 158 yards and two scores while adding a 46-yard touchdown reception. Through the air, Tatum Doucette completed 9 of 14 passes for 264 yards and five touchdowns in a coming-of-age performance.


“He’s worked really hard and attended a lot of camps this summer to work to get better,” Blair Doucette said of Tatum, his son, who also started as a freshman last year. “He’s always committed himself to being a better football player, and he has that drive that you want to see in your quarterback.”

Another area team, Lawrence, headed east to Bangor on Fridayfor its season opener. With the Bulldogs returning a good chunk of players from a regional semifinal squad a year ago, they, like Falmouth, could have been expected to take care of a Bangor team they beat 58-6 a year ago.

That didn’t happen as Bangor came back from an early 6-0 deficit to claim a surprising 21-6 victory over Lawrence. It added to a Friday evening that saw two of the top Class B North contenders — or the two of the teams believed to be the top contenders, at least — lose their opening games.

Elsewhere in the state, Portland marked its return to Class A by beating a Thornton Academy team ranked No. 1 in the Varsity Maine preseason poll 35-28. Camden Hills, which went 2-6 a year ago, beat Large School North playoff pillar Morse 6-0 in the lowest-scoring game in Maine eight-man history.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of parity statewide all year long,” Doucette said. “Last year, you had so many teams with those big classes graduate, so you have a lot of teams with new players where you don’t really know how good they are until you play them.”



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Although there were some surprises locally and throughout the state in Week 1, two area programs that have been among the best in the eight-man game’s short existence took care of business.

Maranacook gave first-year head coach Skip Bessey a good start to his tenure with a win Friday night against Boothbay. The Black Bears racked up 459 yards of total offense and used their depth to wear down a thin Seahawks team in a 56-20 home victory.

“We played with a lot of physicality, and that and the execution were both outstanding, so I was super happy with our kids,” Bessey said. “After the Mt. Ararat (preseason) game, we wanted to tweak a few things, so we made some changes with some stuff up front and our blocking. I thought it worked well.”

Maranacook quarterback Kody Goucher excelled, completing 8 of 11 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns — all to Robbie Vivenzio — and running for 99 yards on the ground. Owen Dunn also contributed for the Black Bears, rushing five times for 87 yards and a score and catching three passes for 53 yards.


After Maranacook scored the opening touchdown to take a 6-0 lead, Boothbay rattled off a 50-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Bessey responded to that play by giving his team a quick pep talk that fired them up, and the Black Bears ran away from the Seahawks from there.

“I looked at (assistant coach Josiah Kearns) after they scored and said, ‘This could be a game,’” Bessey said. “I really started chewing my kids out because it looked like they were getting winded. After that, they snapped out of it and said, ‘OK, wait a minute; we’ve got to step it up.’ From that point, it was game on.”

Just 15 miles away, Waterville, the two-time defending Large School North champ, began its 2023 season with a convincing win of its own. Avenging their homecoming loss from last season, the Purple Panthers rolled to a 34-0 victory over Spruce Mountain in Livermore Falls.

Dawson Harrison accounted for all five touchdowns for Waterville, rushing for 250 yards and four touchdowns and catching three passes for 80 yards and a score. He also had 13 tackles on defense. Ben Foster had seven rushes for 75 yards and recorded seven tackles.


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Gardiner quarterback Chase Burgess throws a touchdown pass to Zach Kristan against Mt. Blue during a football game Friday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Chase Burgess is new to the quarterback position and is in his first year as the starter for Gardiner.

Neither of those facts were noticeable Friday night.

Burgess, a junior, went 11 of 18 passing for 143 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers rolled to a 37-12 win over Mt. Blue at Hoch Field. Burgess also ran for 38 yards and a touchdown.

“Chase is new to the position, so to see him come out and take ownership of that spot (was huge),” Gardiner head coach Pat Munzing said. “He’s put a lot of work into that, and he’s had a lot of help from his receivers in being able to understand where (routes) open. He’s spent a lot of time with (the coaching staff) doing chalk talk. To see him mature in that role is going to be a huge thing for our team moving forward.”

Gardiner, which opened up its passing attack under former quarterback Wyatt Chadwick last season, continued its strategy Friday against the Cougars. Burgess spread the ball around to six different receivers, mostly through short, quick passes in the flat. But that opened up senior receiver Zach Kristan for not one but two touchdowns on the same route, a seam, both with gains of 20-plus yards.

“It was a great game out there,” Burgess said. “The whole team put effort in. It was just a great game.”


Staff reporter Dave Dyer contributed to this report.

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