Messalonskee’s Drake Brunelle, right, hauls in a touchdown pass as Gardiner defender Evan Ahearn gives chase during a Class B North football game Sept. 8 in Oakland. Morning Sentinel file

The Maine high school football regular season is half over. If you don’t believe that, check your calendar.

Four weeks are down with four weeks still remaining as September comes to a close. The bright skies that graced kickoffs a few weeks ago are no longer, and jackets and scarves that were complete afterthoughts earlier this very month will soon be essential.

“It feels like it was just Week 1 a few days ago,” said Lawrence head coach John Hersom. “You blink, and there it goes. It’s a lot shorter than it seems.”

It’s enough time, though, for contenders to emerge and playoff pictures to take shape — and with playoff fields more inclusive than ever, everything is still up for grabs as we close out the month and make way for October.

In Class B North, six of the seven teams hail from central Maine, while the lone remaining team, Falmouth, is not eligible for the postseason after forfeiting last week’s game against Portland. That makes it a certainty that a local team will claim a regional title and play for a Gold Ball in mid-November.

At the moment, Messalonskee (4-0), Gardiner (3-1) and Lawrence (3-1) are at the top of that heap. The unbeaten Eagles have been particularly impressive, outscoring opponents 182-36 after their first four games and earning the respect of opposing coaches in the Pine Tree Conference.

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“I think Messalonskee has shown that they really deserve the praise that they’re getting right now,” said Gardiner head coach Pat Munzing, whose team lost to the Eagles 35-0 in Week 2. “With the way that they’re playing and the way that they’re clicking along, they’re looking like the favorites right now.”

Munzing’s Gardiner team doesn’t play Lawrence in the regular season, but the Tigers can still earn some big Crabtree points against Nokomis and Cheverus. Messalonskee, meanwhile, does play the Bulldogs, and they also have a major contest upcoming as a juggernaut Leavitt team comes to town Friday.

“We know the second half of our season is going to be a pretty tough run for us,” Hersom said. “We try to focus on one opponent each week and not worry about what’s next or say the word ‘playoffs.’ That’s going to be important for this stretch. … There’s still a lot of season left.”

That’s true toward the bottom half of the class, too, where things are by no means over for Cony (1-3), Skowhegan (1-3) and Mt. Blue (0-4). At least one of those teams is guaranteed a preliminary/regional quarterfinal game at October’s end after Falmouth’s expulsion from postseason play.

Nokomis’ Jacob Cote, left, is congratulated by teammate Logan Washburn after Cote scored a touchdown against Winslow during a football game Sept. 18 in Newport. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

In Class C, Nokomis (2-2) is currently in third place behind Medomak Valley and Oceanside in the North. Although catching up to the unbeaten Panthers and Mariners is a stretch, finishing third or fourth would give the Warriors a home playoff game, likely against Hampden Academy or Brewer.

“Every week, we’ve been playing a team that throws something different at us,” said Nokomis head coach Jake Rogers. “Every team so far has a different scheme, but we like that because it gets us prepared as the season goes on and you start getting closer to the playoffs.”

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Although none of central Maine’s Class D teams look to be among the elite contenders at the moment, at least four of the five are guaranteed to be playing postseason football. In D South, all six teams make the playoffs, and in the North, only one of the seven will be missing out.

In the South, that’s good news for Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale and Oak Hill, both 1-3. All it would take is a couple wins for the Ramblers or Raiders to move into a position for a home quarterfinal game, while even a .500 finish could potentially see one of them claim a bye altogether.

In the North, it’s possible that Maine Central Institute (1-3) or Winslow (2-2) could clinch a home quarterfinal game at 2-6 or 3-5. Although Madison/Carrabec Valley is 0-4, the Bulldogs could easily find themselves playing postseason football as well — the No. 6 seed could very well go to a team that finishes 1-7.

“With six of the seven going to the playoffs, we have a shot to find one of those spots,” said MCI head coach Tom Bertrand. “It would be nice to have one of those top ones, but we’re not focused on that; we’re focused on making sure that, when that postseason comes, we’re peaking and are as competitive as we can be.”

In the eight-man ranks, central Maine has a legitimate championship contender in Maranacook. The Black Bears are 4-0 and have upcoming games against 3-1 Dirigo and 4-0 Old Orchard Beach, the latter of which could determine which team gets the No. 1 in Small School South.

Mount View is 0-4, but with all eight teams in Small School South making the playoffs, the Mustangs will be playing postseason football regardless of how they finish. Their battle with winless Traip Academy on Friday will likely determine how the bottom two spots in the standings shake out.

In Large School play, Waterville is currently fifth, which would send it on the road for a regional quarterfinal. The Purple Panthers, though, can shoot up the standings and maybe even position themselves for a bye with wins in their remaining games against Greely, Camden Hills and Mountain Valley.

“The North is just tough,” Waterville head coach Isaac LeBlanc said ahead of last week’s matchup with fellow title contender Mt. Desert Island. “There’s not a lot separating most of these teams. It really all comes down to who’s going to play the best football down the stretch.”


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