BANGOR — It would be hard to imagine the Bangor High School football team having a better third quarter than it did while opening the season against Melrose-Mindoro on Thursday night.
The Cardinals did it all in the 12 minutes that followed a tight first half by scoring four touchdowns and adding a safety to give themselves plenty of breathing room in a 51-7 nonconference victory over the Mustangs.
Bangor (1-0) won its 28th consecutive regular-season game behind a third-quarter outburst that included an interception return for a touchdown, a safety and 29 points that moved the game to a running clock when senior Ethan Jacobson scored on an 8-yard run with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left in the quarter.
The Cardinals held the Mustangs to minus 4 yards of offense — both in the third quarter and the entire second half — and intercepted two passes as they pulled away. Cade Amborn returned his interception 8 yards for a touchdown, and Adam Tallman set up a Carter Horstman touchdown with one of his own on the next possession.
“I think we saw Bangor in the second half tonight,” Cardinals quarterback Drew Johnson said. “The first half wasn’t Bangor for whatever reason.
“We weren’t ready and were maybe a little nervous because it was the first game. I know I was nervous.”
Bangor senior Luke Reader rushed 14 times for 115 yards, and Johnson scored twice to get the season started on the right foot. It is the 10th straight time the Cardinals have opened the season by beating the Mustangs.
Melrose-Mindoro (0-1), which played well defensively in the first half and only trailed 16-7 heading to the third quarter, helped Bangor by making penalty after penalty in the third. The Cardinals scored their safety on a holding call in the end zone as quarterback Patrick Corcoran tried to escape a pass rush.
The Mustangs completed six passes for 78 yards in the first half and none with the two interceptions in the third quarter.
“I think what we did better in the second half was recognize plays,” Bangor coach Rick Muellenberg said. “They were hitting some slants on us, and our safeties just weren’t quite in the right spots.
“We used our inside linebackers to take the short throw away and started chucking the inside receiver to get him off his routes. It was better play recognition on our part.”
The Cardinals hit their stride in the first half with a 80-yard touchdown drive that lasted 5:24 and included 14 plays.
The drive followed Melrose-Mindoro’s first touchdown and a kickoff that Reader had to field in the end zone as the first raindrops began to fall.
Reader carried five times for 39 yards and picked up 3 yards on a fourth-and-1 snap from the Melrose-Mindoro 38 to keep the drive alive.
Drew Johnson’s 14 yard run on first-and-10 from the 15 set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Theo Muellenberg that gave Bangor its 16-7 halftime lead.
The Cardinals had another chance to score in the second when Brendan Burke recovered a fumble at Bangor’s 34 with 59.2 seconds on the clock, but they couldn’t convert. A 16-yard run by Reader was good for one first down and a 20-yard pass from Johnson to Caleb Miedema produced another at the Melrose-Mindoro 30 with 32.2 seconds left.
But the Mustangs stood their ground with a sack, and Brett Gerdes intercepted a third-down pass to end the thought of another touchdown.
Gerdes scored the Mustangs’ first touchdown on a 3-yard run that capped a 64-yard drive that included 47 passing yards by Drew Blaken. Melrose-Mindoro converted two third downs, and an 18-yard pass from Blaken to Connor Christopherson gave it a first down at the Bangor 14. Gerdes scored three plays later.
The Cardinals opened the scoring with an 84-yard touchdown drive on their second possession of the first quarter.
Eleven running plays and one pass moved them down the field, and Johnson kept the ball and scored from the 12 before completing a conversion pass to Theo Muellenberg for an 8-0 lead with 2:14 left in the first.