Friday, March 7, 2014
Of all the coaches I speak with on a regular basis, one of my favorites is Bangor High School football coach Mark Hackett.
Hackett always gives an honest assessment of his team, and has a strong handle on the state of high school football in Maine. On Tuesday, I spoke with Hackett about Friday’s game with rival Lawrence.
This could be the final meeting between Lawrence and Bangor, at least for some time. If the proposal to expand Maine high school football to four classes is approved, Lawrence would be in Class B, while Bangor would stay in Class A.
Hackett said he hopes Lawrence petitions the Maine Principals’ Association and stays in Class A, not just because it will prolong his team’s rivalry with the Bullodgs, or give the Rams a relatively easy road trip (in the four class proposal, Bangor’s nearest opponent is Lewiston, a 216 mile round trip), but because he feels it would strengthen Class A East.
“I just really love playing them,” Hackett said. “Whatever team represents this end of the state (in the championship game) has to play the best competition, and Lawrence is one of the best.”
Hackett’s Rams are one of two Eastern teams to win the Class A state championship in the last 25 years. Bangor won the title in 2001, Hackett’s first season as head coach. That was the first season Lewiston and Edward Little played in the Pine Tree Conference, and Hackett remembers being told by some Western Maine coaches that they felt the introduction of the two bigger schools would help the East win more titles.
It hasn’t happened. Only the 2006 Lawrence squad won a title for the East.
Hackett said the reasons for the SMAA’s dominance in the state championship game are varied. One is, by and large, the schools in Western Maine are larger.
“Our teams have always been tough, but haven’t had as many athletes,” Hackett said.
Another is the way the game is played in Western Maine. More and more teams in the SMAA operate out of a spread offense. While some of the PTC teams will run the spread, it’s still by and large a run-first league. When the PTC teams get to the state championship, on the artificial turf of Fitzpatrick Stadium, they have trouble with the game’s speed.
“They’ve made the game horizontal and vertical,” Hackett said.