Oct. 27—There has been one consistent theme to Maine's 2022 high school football season: Expect the unexpected.
Should we still expect unpredictability as regional playoffs begin in 11-man classes B and C and the eight-man Large School division?
"Yeah, absolutely," said Windham Coach Matt Perkins, whose Eagles (5-3) are the third seed in B North. "I look at (the B North quarterfinals) and I'm not convinced that I know what's going to happen."
Perkins pointed to last week's results. Messalonskee, which didn't make the playoffs, beat No. 6 Lawrence. No. 1 Cony needed to rally just to get to overtime in its win against No. 4 Falmouth. Windham, coming off back-to-back thumpings from Class A heavyweights Thornton Academy and Oxford Hills, hung a 14-7 loss on Skowhegan (6-2). Two weeks ago, Skowhegan was unbeaten and looked like the best team in Class B, North or South.
"So who knows?" Perkins said.
Windham's win was a credit to its defense, which has gone through significant changes because of injuries. The return of safety Blake Peeples, his twin brother, outside backer Alex Peeples, and two-way lineman Brayden Penney helped.
"Skowhegan is a great team with some physical, talented athletes and our guys played at a higher level than they've played all season. They reached a new height," Perkins said.
Windham tied the game at 7-7 in the first half on a defensive touchdown when Alex Yeaton, who had fumbled at the Skowhegan 1 on the previous play, caused a fumble that Aiden Heath recovered in the end zone. Yeaton scored the winning touchdown with under 30 seconds to play.
IN CLASS B SOUTH, No. 1 Portland (5-3) has asserted itself and is 5-0 against Class B teams. No. 2 Massabesic (6-2) has won three straight but may be without senior quarterback Colin Scully (shoulder) in its game against No. 7 Gorham (2-6). No. 3 South Portland (5-3) gets No. 6 Marshwood (2-6), which it beat 35-26 in the season opener. No. 4 Kennebunk (5-3) "hosts" No. 5 Biddeford (4-4) at Biddeford's Waterhouse Field, which the Rams have used this season while a new field is constructed in Kennebunk.
"I think the top four teams are the top four teams," said Massabesic Coach Lucas Labbe. "I'm still looking at Gorham as very dangerous and a big threat. But, when you look at us, South Portland, Portland and Kennebunk, I expect those teams to be there next week, and out of those four teams, I think anybody can beat anybody."
Labbe said Scully is "day-to-day." Massabesic is looking for its first playoff win since "I think 2007," Labbe said.
Marshwood, winners of four straight Class B state titles and six of the past seven, is in the odd role of underdog. Coach Alex Rotsko's young team has struggled all season since its loss at South Portland.
"In that game, we had three turnovers and a bunch of penalties, and it really hasn't gotten better the last seven weeks," Rotsko said.
Rotsko has a high school coaching record of 275-61 in 30 seasons, the last 11 at Marshwood. His only losing season was in his second year at Longmeadow in Massachusetts in 1994, where he went 184-39 and won 11 Western Massachusetts titles.
Rotsko's father, Alex Rotsko Sr., died the day before the season opener. Rotsko said he'll wait until after the season is over to determine if he will retire.
"I haven't made a decision yet. For the last three years, anyway, since I retired from teaching, it's kind of been year-to-year, and this year it's been a struggle, between losing my father and our performance," Rotsko said. "It's been a difficult year, so I don't want to make a rash decision and then regret it."
THE EIGHT-MAN Large School regional semifinals feature No. 3 Spruce Mountain (5-2) at No. 2 Yarmouth (7-1) in the South. The teams did not play in the regular season. It will be Yarmouth's first home playoff game since the Clippers won the Class C South title in 2015.
Yarmouth lost last week, 38-14, to Mt. Ararat in Topsham.
"The program is back but we have to learn how to play in big games, how to handle that emotionally," said Yarmouth Coach Jim Hartman. "We didn't handle that well last week. We got punched for the first time all season and we have to learn to handle that."
CLASS C NOTES: In the South, No. 5 Cheverus (5-3) is at No. 4 York (4-4). Both teams have lost their last two games. ... Leavitt and Wells have byes to the regional semifinals. ... No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (6-2) is 3-0 against Class B teams, beating Gorham, Falmouth and South Portland, each by at least 18 points. The Capers lost at Wells and at unbeaten Leavitt, 21-20. Leavitt's average margin of victory in its other seven wins is 34.2 points. ... Medomak Valley (6-2) is the top seed in the North for the second straight season. The Panthers are 5-0 against C North teams, including tight victories against No. 3 Oceanside (35-32) and No. 2 Hermon (14-12).