Lawrence celebrates after beating Cony 27-7 in the Class B North football championship at Charlie’s Field at the Maxwell Athletic Complex in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It can be difficult to forecast what’s coming down the road in Maine high school football these days. After this fall, though, those in central Maine need not be anything short of optimistic.

Even in a season that saw many local teams endure growing pains, the local football scene remained strong with numerous teams in title hunts. Young stars coming of age resulted in breakout seasons and some impressive turnaround campaigns that suggest a strong foundation for central Maine football.

“We’re getting into a cycle of good football players; there’s so much young talent,” said Oak Hill head coach Chad Stowell. “This year’s seniors were the class that lost their first season to COVID, so I think you’re getting some younger players who didn’t miss (a season) that are really coming on strong.”

Claiming a regional championship — its first in 11 years — was Lawrence, which went 8-3 to claim the Class B North crown. The Bulldogs completely dominated the Pine Tree Conference, going unbeaten in league play and winning their eight league games by an average margin of 38.4-6.1.

They did so on the backs of a top junior running back in Colton Carter and a stout offensive line. The Bulldogs’ eschewed the pass-heavy offense used by the rest of the league in favor of a top ground game that put up astonishing numbers, nearly eclipsing the 500-yard mark twice against Cony.

Lawrence running back Maddox Santone, left, (20) is tackled by Cony’s Landon Foster during the Class B North football championship in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We didn’t think we’d be having this type of season running the football, actually,” Lawrence head coach John Hersom said ahead of the Bulldogs’ regional title win over the Rams. “We only had a couple boys from last year returning there. However, they’re pretty athletic kids; they’re not real big, but they do a good job moving their feet and getting themselves into position.”


As for Cony, the Rams had an admirable season in finishing as Class B North runners-up. Led by sophomore quarterback Parker Morin (2,557 yards, 24 touchdowns) and senior receiver Parker Sergent (76 catches, 1,159 yards, 14 touchdowns), Cony went 7-4, reaching their first regional title game in a decade.

It didn’t start so hot for Cony, which began 1-3 with season-ending injuries to Conner Heidle, Rocco Napolitano and Tyler Pelletier early in the year. Yet the Rams answered by winning six consecutive games as a team that started sophomores at nearly half of its positions improved with each passing week.

“We certainly didn’t have visions of playing in (a regional title) game (earlier in the season),” said Cony head coach B.L. Lippert . “We were worried about the state of our program, whether we were good enough or tough enough. We weren’t playing to the standard we’ve set here, but we challenged the kids, and they turned it around.”

Messalonskee also impressed in B North under first-year head coach Blair Doucette, who was named PTC Co-Coach of the Year along with Hersom. Winners of their first six games, the Eagles followed a 2022 campaign a year ago with a 7-2 mark to notch their winningest season since 2000.

Sophomore quarterback Tatum Doucette (1,511 passing yards, 15 touchdowns; 574 rushing yards, five touchdowns) and junior cornerback Drake Brunelle (11 interceptions) shined for the Eagles as underclassmen. Senior running back Sam Dube also had a big year, rushing for 961 yards and 12 scores.

“We truly did have a great season, and it was all because of the kids, their attitudes and their ability to work hard toward the goals we set as a football program and stay locked in,” Blair Doucette said. “We had a ‘We, not me’ attitude all year, and the kids embraced that every single week.”


Gardiner (5-5) joined Lawrence, Cony and Messalonskee in the Class B North semifinals as sophomore Asher Nagy and junior Chase Burgess both showed promise for the Tigers at quarterback. Skowhegan (2-7) and Mt. Blue (0-9) rounded out the rest of the league locally while Falmouth finished 2-6.

Retooling its offense after key losses in the passing game from 2022, Nokomis (4-6) had its share of ups and downs as the lone local team in Class C North. All-around threat Seth Bowden, another sophomore, led the way for a Warriors team that earned a 14-13 road win over Hampden Academy in the regional semis.

In Class D South, Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale and Oak Hill both enjoyed turnaround seasons. The Ramblers went 7-4 after a 1-3 start to the year, claiming six straight wins before a regional final loss to Wells. The Raiders, who started 0-3, won their next five before falling to the Ramblers in the regional semis to conclude 5-4.

Lawrence’s Colton Carter is tackled by Gardiner’s Evan Michaud, top, Cody Dingwell (21) and Eben Whalen (18) during a Class B North football semifinal game in Fairfield. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

In Week 4, Oak Hill came back from a 12-0 deficit to claim a 20-12 victory over the Ramblers in the first game on Charlie’s Field turf. Then, in the D South semis, the Ramblers erased a 14-6 deficit with a touchdown and 2-point conversion before Gabe Robinson’s a 31-yard field goal as time expired secured a 17-14 win.

“It’s against our rival, and we’re not doing anything offensively, so it was a frustrating game,” said Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale head coach Dave St. Hilaire. “To not only kick that at the final gun but to have the game-tying drive in the final three minutes where we had a fourth-and-8 and then had to make a 2-point try, it was fantastic.”

Juniors Cody Cobb and Carter Rivers combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards for the Ramblers with the former recording 69 tackles on defense. Sophomore Ben Porter was one of D South’s top receivers and tacklers, and junior quarterback Braden Branagan led numerous game-tying or game-winning drives.


Oak Hill, fielding just four seniors, also had a tough start to the season as it went 0-3 and scored just six point in its first three games against a front-loaded schedule. Yet the Raiders rebounded defensively to end the regular season on a five-game winning streak, allowing just 9.6 points per game over that stretch. 

PJ Smith (6) of Oak Hill celebrates with his teammates after he intercepted a pass intended for Brody Adams of Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale during a Nov. 4 game in Wales. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“In that five-game winning streak, I think we gave up two scores in all of our second halves,” Stowell said. “Defensively, we put a lot of focus this year on being athletes. In past years, I think we’ve overcomplicated things defensively, but this year, we put emphasis on using our speed to snowball big defensive plays.”

Playing Ironman football as injuries mounted, Winslow, led by running back Matt Quirion, went 4-6 in Class D North. Among the Black Raiders’ wins were victories over central Maine foes Maine Central Institute and Madison/Carrabec/Valley, which concluded trying seasons 1-8 and 0-8, respectively.

Always a strong team in the eight-man ranks, Maranacook fit that mold again in 2023. The Black Bears were Small School South runners-up at 6-3 as they avenged last year’s season-ending semifinal loss to Dirigo with a win in the same round before falling to reigning champ Old Orchard Beach in the regional final.

Waterville, which had won eight-man’s past two Large School North titles, went 3-6 this year as injuries took a toll on the Purple Panthers. Mount View, which had its own injury woes with standout running back Wyatt Evensen missing much of the year, went 0-8 in Small School South.

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