Mind game: Marshwood expects Kennebunk’s best in Class B South football final

By  Mike Zhe mzhe@seacoastonline.com Nov 14, 2019 

The top-seeded Hawks (9-1) will try for their third straight Class B South championship when they host No. 2 Kennebunk (8-2) on Saturday (1 p.m.)

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Time was set aside during Marshwood High School football practice on Wednesday for coach Alex Rotsko to tell his team a story.

The year was 2014. After routing York, 41-12, in the final week of the regular season, the Hawks faced a rematch three weeks later in the regional final.  And nearly lost.Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 9.56.28 PM Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 9.56.12 PM Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 9.55.58 PM

A blocked extra point by linebacker Zach Mitchell was the only thing that separated the teams by the time Marshwood’s 14-13 win concluded. It would complete its perfect season a week later in the state game, but had an important lesson reinforced.

“It’s difficult to play somebody twice in the same season,” said Rotsko. “No matter how much you prepare and how much you tell yourself it could be different, psychologically, somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘We’ve beaten these guys already.’”

The top-seeded Hawks (9-1) will try for their third straight Class B South championship when they host No. 2 Kennebunk (8-2) on Saturday (1 p.m.). A regular-season game in Week 7 saw the Hawks score early and often, and play hard and nearly mistake-free in a 48-14 win.

This time, they’re preparing for a tougher test.

“We know they’re going to come out and play aggressive,” said quarterback/defensive end Connor Caverly. “We just know that if we play our game, and we play as hard as we can, it’s going to be a good one.”

By the time the teams take the field on Saturday, they’ll know one of the teams in next Saturday’s state game in Portland. No. 1 Brunswick (10-0) hosts No. 3 Lawrence (9-1) in the North championship game on Friday night.

Kennebunk coach Joe Rafferty knows his team has to play much better against Marshwood than it did in the regular season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, to have a chance at moving on.

“We have to be more mentally ready,” Rafferty told Seacoast Media Group. “They jumped on us early, and they kept pouring it on. We have to do a better job defensively and find a way to stop them.

“Offensively, we have to do some scoring on our own which we were unable to do last time. Marshwood is an excellent football team; we have to be at our best to have any chance to win.”

Three weeks ago, the Hawks scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to lead 28-0 at halftime. Fullback Justin Bryant (1,214 yards, 25 touchdowns on the season) rushed for 146 yards and three scores.

Cam Cornett rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown, and Caverly hit on 5-of-7 passes for 82 yards.

“In the first game, I was happy with our intensity level,” said Rotsko. “I think that’s the thing that makes me the most nervous. We need to come out with the same intensity.”

Like in the first meeting, the Hawks’ defense will have eyes on running backs Ryan Connors and Jake Sullivan. Quarterback Tommy Lazos will mix in some option.

The Rams advanced by coming back from an early deficit to beat No. 6 Cheverus, 28-14, in its semifinal last week.

One way for Kennebunk to keep it closer is to win the turnover battle, but that’s not a battle teams have won against Marshwood, which has 23 takeaways and just seven giveaways (four lost fumbles, three interceptions) on the season.

“We’ve been great from that standpoint all year,” said Rotsko.

The forecast calls for sunshine with temperatures in the low 30s, a picture-perfect setting for November championship football in Maine.

“It’s exciting,” said Caverly. “These are the games you look forward to playing.”

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