Nov. 4—OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Excellence. Domination. An offensive and defensive juggernaut.
Each describes what the Old Orchard Beach High eight-man football team is doing this season.
On Saturday, the run continued. The Seagulls improved to 10-0 and won the Small School South regional title with a 56-8 win against Maranacook.
Believe it or not, it was the closest, most competitive game Old Orchard has played this year. Old Orchard's average margin of victory is 60.8 points. Saturday was the first game it has been held under 60 points in a four-quarter contest.
"It was the most fun we've had all year," said junior linebacker Brayden Mansur. "We've been a little bummed we haven't gotten to play the whole game and we really enjoyed today that we could stay in longer."
Old Orchard will go for its second straight Small School championship on Saturday at Bangor against Orono, which won the North title with a 58-40 victory Saturday night against Stearns.
"We know what's ahead of us," said junior quarterback Brady Plante. "Orono or Stearns, they both have been playing very well. We're back to work Monday."
Against Maranacook, Old Orchard showed again it can score in multiple ways. Mansur and Riley Provencher each returned interceptions for touchdowns. Provencher caught his ninth touchdown pass of the season, the 22nd thrown by Plante. Wes Gallant rushed for touchdowns of 11, 53 and 37 yards on his way to a 143-yard rushing day, giving him nearly 1,400 rushing yards for the season and 27 touchdowns. Those four are all juniors, by the way.
The defense forced five turnovers.
And, believe it or not, Old Orchard was off its game despite building a 22-0 first-quarter lead.
The Seagulls had uncharacteristic penalties. Gallant and Provencher both dropped well-thrown passes that should have been touchdowns. The defense — which had allowed only 32 points and had seven shutouts in nine games — gave up a 10-play, 51-yard scoring drive that cut the lead to 22-8 with 7:27 left in the first half.
"We were nervous for the stakes of the game," Provencher acknowledged. "I wouldn't say we were rattled but we did definitely make some mistakes."
The offense was even forced to punt for the first time all season.
"We were feeling really good about ourselves but the thing about it is ... they're very good. They're very well coached," said Skip Bessey, Maranacook's first-year head coach. "And they just kept coming."
Right after the inaugural punt — which was a solid 36-yarder by Kooper Gervais with no return — Mansur sacked Maranacook quarterback Kody Goucher for an 11-yard loss to force the Black Bears to punt. That set up a short field and less than 90 seconds later, Reid MacNair bulled in from the 2.
Then it was Mansur turning in his 57-yard interception return, giving the Seagulls two scores in 28 seconds and a 36-8 lead at the half.
In the second half, Gallant broke loose on his long touchdown runs. MacNair, usually the lead blocker and one of 10 seniors, scored on a bruising 11-yard touchdown run.
The Seagulls have flown so far above their competition that Coach Dean Plante said he's heard some "ridiculousness" about how the 200-student school with a 27-player roster should go back to playing 11-man.
"Last year we were everybody's darling and this year it's like, 'Why aren't they playing Leavitt? Why aren't they playing Thornton Academy?" Dean Plante said, shaking his head. "People don't understand the real purpose of eight-man. It's not to work back to 11-man. It's what our program needs."
If others have a problem with Old Orchard's eight-man excellence, that's their problem, Dean Plante said. His team, players and coaches, are committed to becoming better.
"Our program's goal is to set the standard for eight-man and that's what we hope to do," he said. "That's it. We bought in."