Dawson Moore and Preston Roy work through a drill during practice Wednesday in Fairfield. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

FAIRFIELD — Watching film on the Lawrence football team, Keith Noel recognizes what he sees.

Noel, head coach of Kennebunk, hasn’t watched the Bulldogs before, nor has his team faced Lawrence this season. Yet the team that showcases itself on tape strongly resembles another with which he’s rather familiar: his own.

“It’s kind of like watching yourself when you watch them play,” Noel said. “We each have some backs we try to distribute the ball to, and we both have good line play and try to do things fundamentally sound. There’s a lot of similarities.”

There’s not much doubt as to the kind of game that could unfold at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when Lawrence and Kennebunk meet for the Class B state championship at Fitzpatrick Stadium. It will be a ground-and-pound game that will see two top seeds look to out-physical one another en route to a Gold Ball.

In Colton Carter, Gaige Martin and Gavin Wilson, North champ Lawrence (8-2) has a slew of running backs ready to run the ball down your throat. Those backs are only boosted by an offensive line of Davin Bolduc, Cam Dostie, Zeb Hannah, Connor Mayo, Cam Stewart and tight end Brandon Watson.

Even as teams have known exactly what’s coming from the Lawrence offense, they haven’t been able to stop it. The Bulldogs ran for 480 yards last week against Cony last week after rushing for 483 against the Rams in the regular season. They rushed for 344 against the other top Class B North team, Messalonskee.


“Our line just does a great job of opening up holes and letting our running backs run and do what they can do,” said quarterback Michael Hamlin, who can also rush for big yardage himself via both designed runs and the waggle keep. “They get that push and open up those holes, and the running backs make plays.”

Kennebunk’s Moose Keys finds a hole and picks up some yards during an Oct. 7 game against Sanford in Kennebunk. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Kennebunk (9-1), the top seed out of the South, has a similar approach. The Rams have one of the state’s top linemen in Owen Bourque and two other standouts at the position in Brandon Lemire and Gabe Jewett. Running behind them is Jonah Barstow, who can put up triple-digit yardage in his sleep.

It’s a much different offense from what Lawrence has seen in recent weeks. In the Northern Maine semifinals, the Bulldogs defeated Gardiner, which threw 25 times with sophomore quarterback Asher Nagy. Cony then passed 35 times against Lawrence in the Bulldogs’ 27-7 regional title game victory.

“It’s going to be way different,” Hamlin, who threw just three passes all game in the win over the Rams, said of Lawrence’s upcoming task on defense. “Watching Kennebunk on film, they pretty much run the same offenses as we do. It’s kind of going to be like playing yourselves.”

Defensively, with the exception of a 62-32 Week 5 loss to a juggernaut Leavitt team, Lawrence has been nothing less than stout. The Bulldogs allowed just 6.1 points per game in Pine Tree Conference play, posting a pair of shutouts and allowing more than one score just once in a 47-14 Oct. 6 win over Skowhegan.

The key to that success has been turnovers. Although Lawrence’s 41-6 win over Messalonskee and 27-8 triumph over Falmouth were somewhat tight in terms of total yardage, the Bulldogs forced four turnovers in both games en route to comfortable wins. They also intercepted four passes in both playoff games.


Cony’s Austin Buckram, left, pursues Lawrence’s Colton Carter during a Sept. 22 game in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“They did a great job of (forcing turnovers) last week against Cony and the week before against Gardiner,” Noel said. “That’s helped them set themselves up with great field position, and that’s huge in a game like football that’s all about emotion and momentum. We’ve got to eliminate turnovers if we want to win.”

Even at 9-1, Kennebunk’s path through Class B South hasn’t exactly been linear. After outscoring foes 207-24 over their first four games, the Rams dropped a 27-6 contest to South Portland in Week 7 and needed a late field goal to pull out a 23-22 victory over Westbrook in the regional semifinals.

Good teams, though, find ways through their struggles, and that’s exactly what Kennebunk has done to earn a spot in this Class B state title game. Lawrence head coach John Hersom fully expects the Rams to challenge his defense in a game that could go by quickly with two rushing attacks that kill the clock.

“It’s totally a different week for us (defensively); we’ve had to turn toward the run and work on doing what we can to limit their big plays,” Hersom said. “They do a good job executing their offense, and it’s a game that could be a game where both teams are moving the chains and keeping the clock running.”

Whoever wins will be adding a Gold Ball to its trophy case for the first time in a while. Lawrence hasn’t won a state title since 2006, meaning most of the Bulldogs’ current players weren’t alive the last time the program stood atop the state. For Kennebunk, it’s been much longer; the Rams’ last state championship came in 1991.

With two teams almost mirroring one another, there’s little question as to how whichever team wins ends its championship drought will get there. It will be by grounding and pounding the way victory on a wet afternoon that will make running the football even more of an imperative.

“We just have to tell ourselves that they’re not any better than we are,” Hamlin said. “We have to come out with the intensity and say, ‘Hey, we’re here for a reason, so why not keep playing?’ We have guys who can ground it out up front, and that’s what we hope they can do.”

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