Messalonskee’s Tatum Doucette (7) runs the ball as Cony’s Jackson Veilleux (18) closes in during a football game Sept. 15 in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It’s November, and if you’re still playing football, you’ve earned that status.

Spots in regional title games are on the line for 11-man teams around the state this weekend. In the eight-man ranks, four teams will bring home regional championship plaques and earn berths to state title games. It’s the time of year that makes or breaks dreams as some truly grand prizes are within reach.

“Anytime you’re playing when the streetlights come on and when there’s no leaves on the trees, it usually means you’re doing good things,” said Oak Hill head coach Chad Stowell. “It’s exciting. The practices are more exciting, and it’s a good feeling to be preparing for big games.”

There are plenty of those on hand for Week 10 with local teams in four classes and five regions in action on the gridiron. Nine central Maine football teams will be competing across six games with some bound for championship stages and others about to hand in their gear and turn to 2024.

If there’s any place where you’ll find exceptional buzz around this week’s games, it’s at Messalonskee. The No. 2 Eagles (7-1) are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and will play one of the round’s most tantalizing games Monday night when they host No. 3 Cony (6-3) in the Class B North semifinals.

It’s the second matchup of the year between Messalonskee and Cony, the former of which won 39-21 back in Week 3. That matchup saw two sophomore quarterbacks, the Eagles’ Tatum Doucette and the Rams’ Parker Morin, showcase themselves as two of the top young players in the Pine Tree Conference.


“That was a good game, and I think we’re going to get another one,” said Messalonskee head coach Blair Doucette. “I think (Cony’s) air attack has really come along. … (Doucette and Morin) are very good quarterbacks, and they’re both able to hit their targets and make things happen.”

Cony has won five straight games since a 1-3 start to the season. Messalonskee lost in Week 7 against Lawrence and struggled against winless Mt. Blue in its most recent contest in Week 8 after their strong start, but the Eagles will still enter this contest healthy and well-rested after 16 days without a game.

“I really think the bye was big for us because it helped us get healthy,” Coach Doucette said. “We were able to get (starting running back) Sam Dube back healthy again, and we had a couple of others who had been banged up that we were able to rest up and get ready to play this week.”

Nokomis defensive players Jacob Cote, left, Linwood Grover (56) and Seth Bowden (4) surround Gardiner back Kyle Doody but he evaded them and ran 53 yards for a touchdown during a football game Sept. 29 in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The other B North semifinal pits No. 1 Lawrence (6-2) against fourth-ranked Gardiner (5-4) on Saturday at Keyes Field. It’s the first matchup between the Bulldogs and Tigers since 2016 with the former looking to pull within one win of its first regional crown since 2012 and the latter seeking its first since 2007.

In Class C North, fifth-ranked Nokomis (4-5) claimed its biggest win of the year Tuesday with a 14-13 quarterfinal triumph over No. 4 Hampden Academy. The win sent the Warriors to the Northern Maine semifinals, where they will take on top-ranked Oceanside (8-0) on Saturday in Rockland.

It’s a matchup that Nokomis head coach Jake Rogers knows will be a tough one for his Warriors, who lost to the Mariners 42-0 in the regular season (albeit with numerous players sick). Yet Nokomis is embracing the underdog role, and the pressure, Rogers said, will be off the Warriors come Saturday night.


“We got done with the (Hampden) game, and all I said to the boys was, ‘Why not?’” Rogers said. “Stuff happens; fumbles happen, and turnovers happen. I’ve coached teams that were supposed to win big and lost, and I’ve coached teams that were supposed to lose and found a way to win. That’s why you play the game.”

Also in an underdog role Saturday is Winslow, which earned a 55-14 victory over Maine Central Institute in Tuesday’s Class D North quarterfinals. The No. 4 Black Raiders (4-5) will face undefeated Foxcroft (8-0), a team that had its toughest game of the season in Week 8 against Winslow before ultimately winning 35-14.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale quarterback Braden Branagan, center, gets a pass off under pressure from Oak Hill linebacker Colton Davis, left, and offensive lineman Dominic Biron during a Sept. 23 game in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In Class D South, two teams from the area’s southwestern reaches will meet Saturday for a spot in the regional championship game. Third-ranked Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale (6-3) will head to Wales to face No. 2 Oak Hill (5-3) in a matchup of two teams that are on five-game winning streaks after slow starts to the year.

“When you’re a young team, you have kids in situations that are new to them,” Stowell said. “You have kids who have never been asked to carry the load, and now, they have to do that in a varsity situation. It’s hard to replicate that until you actually do it, so to see that and get on a winning streak like this, it’s a good feeling.”

The Ramblers will look to a ground game of Carter Rivers (795 yards, six touchdowns this season) and Cody Cobb (747 yards, 10 touchdowns) to continue the success they had in Tuesday’s 43-8 win over Lisbon. Oak Hill has its own stalwart running back in Kaiden Delano and a promising freshman quarterback in Kai Taylor.

The game is a rematch of a Week 4 contest between the Ramblers and Raiders in Winthrop. The Ramblers led that game 12-0 before Oak Hill stormed back to claim a 20-12 win, a comeback that Stowell knows will be on the Ramblers’ minds when they come to Wales.


“We know Winthrop was hungry for a rematch with us; I know they felt they played good enough to win in that game,” Stowell said. “It’s something we’ve talked about because we expect them to come in with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder looking to erase things, and we have to be ready to match that intensity.”

Maranacook’s Owen Dunn runs back the opening kickoff for an 80-yard touchdown against Old Orchard Beach during a football game Oct. 6 in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In the eight-man ranks, it’s regional championship weekend. That means an opportunity to play for a state title for the Maranacook Black Bears, who avenged one of their two losses this season Tuesday with a 40-28 road victory over Dirigo in the Small School South semifinals.

It was a game in which Owen Dunn, Maranacook’s top running back and one of the area’s best players, refused to be denied. The senior ran for five touchdowns and over 200 yards as the third-ranked Black Bears (6-2) advanced to face No. 1 Old Orchard Beach (9-0) in Saturday’s Southern Maine title game.

“We had two weeks to prepare, and we came in there physically ready,” said Maranacook head coach Skip Bessey, whose team got a bye in the quarterfinals after Telstar withdrew from the playoffs. “I told Owen he was going to get a boatload of running the ball, and he loved that. … He was a pest (on defense), too.”

Next up for Maranacook is an OOB team that defeated the Black Bears 66-19 back in Week 6. Just as Maranacook has a top eight-man player in Dunn, the Seagulls do as well in quarterback Brady Plante and receiver Riley Provencheur. Bessey, though, thinks his team will match up much better against OOB this time around.

“We’re going to do better against their rushing game,” Bessey said. “I think we’re going to force them to throw the ball a little bit, and I think that’s a win for us if we can do that. We’re prepared for that, and we’re looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a much better game than the first meeting.”

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