SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Football memories burn brightly, whether they’re three weeks old or a year old.
At least they do at Marshwood High School.
The one of the most recent vintage is one the Hawks (9-1) would like to put to rest — a 17-14, last-second loss to Kennebunk to close out the regular season. They’ll get a chance to do that when they face the top-seeded Rams (10-0) in the Class B South championship game Saturday (12:30 p.m.) at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.
“They flat-out beat us in the first game. No excuses,” said Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko this week. “They outplayed us, they executed better. It seemed like they were better prepared than we were and they played harder.”
What do the Hawks need to do to flip the script, and get a chance to defend their Class B title next Saturday in the state game? First, they need to be better on offense.
“We didn’t execute,” said senior lineman Adam Doyon. “We’ve been watching film ever since that game and realizing that the execution and the intensity both weren’t there. We know we have to step it up in both aspects.”
The Hawks gained just 244 yards in that meeting, a season low, on 60 plays. They drove for a late touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game, only to see the Rams win on a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Connors at the end.
“The good news is we lost with 1.2 seconds left,” said Rotsko. “We know we can play with them.”
While the Hawks couldn’t shake No. 3 Falmouth until after halftime in their 49-24 semifinal win, Kennebunk dominated No. 4 Greely from the start, leading 14-0 after one quarter and 28-0 at halftime in a game that would finish 42-8.
Tripp Bush is a slippery quarterback who’ll take some shots downfield. Derek Smith is their breakaway threat while big Dante DeLorenzo delivers punishment on both sides of the ball, whether at fullback or linebacker.
“I’m really excited for the kids,” said longtime Kennebunk coach Joe Rafferty. “We always say this is where you want to be (in a regional final). But it’s not an easy road to get here — the kids have worked hard for it. As I told them before the game, it’s just dedication, determination, and making the most of our opportunities ... so here we are.”
This will be the seventh year in a row that either Marshwood (2012, ‘14, ‘15, ‘17) or Kennebunk (2013, ‘16) represents the region in the state game. The Hawks would love to have a chance to recapture the feeling they had 12 months ago, when they hoisted the Gold Ball.
“We all want to get back there,” said Doyon. “We all know what it’s like because we were there last year.”
What do the Hawks need to do to create a good lasting memory? Be more efficient on offense and limit big plays on defense.
Quarterback Tommy Springer, who has completed 54 percent of his passes for 966 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, was off-target in the first meeting, hitting on 4-of-15 for 71 yards and getting picked off twice. They’ll try to get their running game untracked behind fullback Justin Bryant (1,034 yards) and avoid costly turnovers.
Defensively, aside from the game-winning drive, there was a lot to like in the last meeting. The Rams are averaging 46.1 points a game.
“I thought we did a pretty good job,” said Rotsko. “We held them to 17 (points). In my mind that’s enough to win a game.”
The winner will play for the state title next weekend at Fitzpatrick Stadium against either Brunswick (7-3) or Lawrence (6-4).
This game was moved to the Waterhouse Field turf when Kennebunk’s soaked home grass field was deemed unplayable this week. But the way this rivalry has been over the years, the teams could play in a parking lot and not miss a beat.
“Everyone is excited,” said Doyon. “You can tell just by being at one of our practices. Everyone is ready to play and wanting to advance and keep playing. That’s really pushing us to work hard.”