ORONO, Maine — The cooperation at the foundation of the annual joint Senior Night game between the Orono and John Bapst of Bangor high school football teams will give way to a clear sense of urgency when the LTC Class D rivals meet Thursday evening in their mutual regular-season finale at the University of Maine.
A postseason berth is at stake.
“Our information is the loser goes home and the winner advances, so it’s a big game, no question about it,” said Orono coach Bob Sinclair. “One team is going to win and go on and the other team is going to put their stuff away.”
John Bapst enters the 7 p.m. contest with a 5-2 record while Orono is 4-3. Based on strength of schedule considerations associated with the Crabtree point system used to seed teams for postseason play, barring any major upsets there’s room for only one of the two in the four-team LTC playoffs that begin next weekend.
Undefeated and top-seeded Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield (8-0) has completed its schedule while second-ranked Bucksport (6-1) and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (4-3) also are poised to secure postseason slots.
So after sharing the stage during pregame ceremonies at Alfond Stadium, more selfish goals will motivate what follows.
“The way we’re approaching this game is that this is the quarterfinals and it’s time to win or go home,” said John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell.
Orono and John Bapst began staging joint Senior Night at UMaine in 2010, taking advantage of the stadium setting to make the event more memorable for the participants.
“The first time we did this in 2010,” said Sinclair, “I walked out on that field, looked around and thought, ‘Holy cow, I thought we were in New York City,’ because it’s just a beautiful facility to play in and a great venue for football.”
The teams have split four regular-season contests at the neutral site, with Orono also winning a postseason matchup there in a 2011 LTC semifinal.
In 2011, the rivalry was shifted from Friday to Thursday to avoid potential scheduling conflicts with UMaine sporting events.
“We’ve created an event over the last four years that’s certainly special for both groups of seniors, and I think we’ve worked well with Orono and vice versa to create this early-in-the-week game that’s become a tradition,” said O’Connell. “I think both schools are happy about that and respectful of the idea that we’re rivals but it’s great to be able to come together and do this for the kids.
“But certainly once we kick the ball off one team’s going to win and one team is going to lose, and both teams want to be in the playoffs. So as respectful and as shared as the game might be, we want to execute and beat them and they want to execute and beat us and that’s just the reality of competition,” he added.
Both teams rely heavily on formidable rushing attacks. John Bapst features Jackson Leonard, one of the LTC’s top ground gainers with 1,254 yards and 15 touchdowns after a 285-yard, five-TD performance in a 43-36 win at Mount View of Thorndike last Saturday.
“Leonard is a real good football player,” said Sinclair. “He’s a classic I-formation tailback and they like to get him the ball, so one challenge is going to be to contain him. Their quarterback [Spencer Baron] throws the ball well and he’s got a big tight end in [Harrison] Dieuveuil that they look to but you’ve got to slow down Leonard a little bit.”
Orono, which hosted Medomak Valley of Waldoboro in an exhibition game last Friday, counters with a deep rushing contingent that includes Matt Fowler (578 yards, five TDs), Keenan Collett (503 yards, six TDs) and Tom Lucy (403 yards, five TDs) and is directed by sophomore quarterback Jackson Coutts (four rushing TDs, six passing TDs).
“They continue to do what they do well,” said O’Connell. “Coach Sinclair always says to coach what you know, and they run that T offense and nobody runs it quite like they do in our league.
“They’re disciplined on offense and then they run coach’s 5-3 defense where you might know where they’re going to line up but they play a hard, physical brand of football and they’re disciplined in doing it so you’ve got to be ready,” he added.
Three runners compete for the title: Chris Cote,Waterville; Haley Lawrence, Ellsworth; and Hannah Steelman, Orono. Vote here.
Mattanawcook Academy 0 at Orono 1
At Orono, the No. 3 Red Riots defeated No. 11 Mattanawcook Academy in Class C action.
Orono’s Kam Stockley scored on a Ben Allan-Rahill pass with 1:25 left in the first half.
Goalie Corbett Arnold made 12 saves on 19 shots for the 10-5-2 Lynx. Alik Espling stopped all 5 shots he faced for 13-2-0 Orono.
Dodi Saucier, who began coaching field hockey in 1979 and has spent 20 years coaching the Orono High School girls during two different stints, has decided to retire.
Saucier, who also has coached at Old Town High, said it was time for her to step down.
“I loved it, but it’s time for some new blood,” said Saucier. “Some years, you don’t know who is out there among young coaches [to succeed me]. But there are a lot of young talented coaches available now who would step into my position and do a very good job.
“That made it an easier decision,” said the 60-year-old Saucier.
Saucier’s teams were perennial playoff contenders, and she guided the Orono girls to the Class C state championship in 1990.
This year’s team was very young after suffering heavy graduation losses off the 2013 team, which went 9-3-2 before losing to Winthrop 1-0 in an Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinal.
The Riots went 3-11 this fall, but six of the losses were by one goal, and four others were by two. Saucier had 14 freshmen and seven sophomores on her 30-player roster.
She spent seven seasons at Orono during her current stint.
“I wanted to leave the program in a good place, and it is in a good place now. The transition is always tricky for kids who are left behind. You want to leave when the program is strong,” said Saucier. “Prior to this season, we had been struggling with numbers. We’re a small school with very strong soccer and cross country programs.
“But we have very talented freshman and sophomore classes in addition to our upperclassmen, and we’ll have some [good] eighth graders coming in next fall,” said Saucier. “They have a good future.”
Saucier has overcome five bouts of cancer in putting together her distinguished career.
Her daughters, Shaunessy and Liz, were outstanding players at Old Town High School and are both involved in coaching. Shaunessy is the head coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island, and Liz just concluded her first season as the head coach at Bangor’s John Bapst High.
Both formerly served as assistants at the University of Maine after their exemplary college playing careers ended. Shaunessy was an All-America East player at Maine, and Liz was an NCAA Division II All-American at William Smith College in New York.
Dodi coached both girls at the Leonard Middle School in Old Town and Liz also played for her one year at Old Town High.
Dodi Saucier said there wasn’t one specific highlight in her coaching career.
“I just loved how my teams played, a skilled ball-control style of play,” she said. “I enjoyed teaching them good clean hockey and how to use space well.”
Orono athletic director Mike Archer said Saucier was special.
“You couldn’t have had a better role model for young women,” said Archer. “Despite her battles with cancer, she missed very little time. And she never complained.
“She was an icon in the community and was highly regarded across the state among the coaches [and field hockey community],” added Archer. “She was very positive.”
Archer called her a “fierce competitor” who hated to lose, but she also was able to put things into perspective. She realized that field hockey was one of several activities that contributed to the growth and development of her student-athletes.
Saucier, who had been a physical education teacher in the Orono school system before retiring several years ago, was “awesome to work with,” according to Archer.
Saucier was on the field hockey, basketball and track teams at Wells High School before playing field hockey, basketball and lacrosse at the University of New Hampshire.
Archer said he hopes to have a successor named by the end of December.
Saucier said she plans to “garden and pay attention to my family.”
In addition to her two daughters, she has two stepchildren, Dave and Shelli Saucier.
BDN: Orono swept the Class C girls and boys team titles amid somewhat sloppy footing caused by several days of rain.
From The Bangor Daily News:
Class C girls: Sophomore Hannah Steelman took top individual honors in 19:23.20 — the fastest girls’ time of the day — while leading a dominant Orono team performance.
The Red Riots totaled 21 points in besting runner-up George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (51), while Washburn (97) and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (106) also advanced to the state meet.
Steelman, who took control from runner-up Tia Tardy of Mattanawcook midway through the race, was one of five Orono runners among the top eight finishers as Kassidy Dill was third followed by Olivia Fandel (fifth), Liza Gallandt (sixth) and Lily Koffman (eighth).
“Our goal was just to run our own race,” said Steelman. “We wanted to improve ourselves, but we were also running for the team win. It was pretty hard race and the mud made it even harder.”
Results – Women Class C
1 Orono High School 23 1 3 5 6 8 21 27 Total Time: 1:43:01.62 Average: 20:36.33
From The Bangor Daily News:
Class C boys: Tristan Butterfield shook off tendinitis in his left knee to lead Orono to a 35-48 victory over George Stevens.
The junior — and only returning runner from last year’s Eastern C title team — finished third as five Red Riots placed among the top 15.
Orono’s Matt Keresey was fifth, followed by Lowell Ruck (10th), Jonathan Spencer (11th) and William O’Neil (15th).
“I really didn’t think it would be possible to do this this year, but we’ve really grown as a team and gotten a lot stronger,” said Butterfield. “I’m a believer now.”
Results – Men Class C
1 Orono High School 35 3 5 7 8 12 17 33 Total Time: 1:32:22.29 Average: 18:28.46