Football: Parity, rematches themes as Class B North playoffs begin this week – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

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Windham the favorite, but deep field presents several capable challengers for regional title.
Lawrence football players prepare to face Windham in a Sept. 17 game in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel
 
The Class B North football playoffs are set to begin, and the coaches involved are in agreement on one notion.
It might not be anyone’s race. But it’s pretty close.
“It’s very competitive. Our conference has been pretty competitive all season long,” Messalonskee coach Walter Polky said. “There are some teams that separate themselves, of course, but if you go around the league and look at the scores, they’re usually close.”
No. 1 Windham hosts No. 8 Mt. Blue, No. 2 Cony takes on No. 7 Brewer, No. 3 Lawrence faces off against No. 6 Messalonskee and No. 5 Falmouth/Greely visits No. 4 Skowhegan.
“Pretty much anybody can beat anybody else on any given night, and I think that’s exciting,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “There have been some years in Class B North where we knew in August who was going to win the league, and it played out exactly as everyone thought. While that’s still fun, it takes away a little intrigue.
“I think this year … the conclusions are not foregone.”
That’s not to say there isn’t a favorite. Windham, undefeated at 6-0 and sporting the conference’s best scoring offense (37.5 points per game) and defense (6.7 points), certainly fits that bill.
Skowhegan’s Drake Belanger makes a reception against Wyndham during an Oct. 15 game in Windham. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer
“Windham has established themselves as the best team,” Lippert said. “They’re the favorite, but I don’t think they’re such a substantial favorite that there’s no chance that anybody can beat them.”
Case in point, Skowhegan just last week lost a 21-7 game to the Eagles, and when considering the way Skowhegan has played since starting 0-3, how Lawrence and Cony have looked when healthy and how Messalonskee and Falmouth/Greely have been able to hang with teams, the field of dark horses deepens. Even Brewer, which fell to Cony 21-17 last week, suggested it won’t be an easy out.
“I think probably anybody in that top four group could piece it together,” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said. “Next week, anything could happen moving forward.”
Two of the quarterfinal matchups will be immediate rematches. After edging Brewer on the road last week, Cony welcomes the Witches to Fuller Field — where the Rams will hope to correct some issues that brought the upset in play.
“They ran 77 offensive plays to our 34, so they really controlled the time of possession and ball control,” Lippert said. “We’re cognizant of that and trying to correct some of those mistakes defensively.”
Lippert said it helps that his team is playing the rematch on the heels of a narrow victory, versus a blowout win that could have had the Rams looking past the Witches Friday night. He brought up 2018, when Cony defeated Brunswick 38-6 in the regular season finale but fell 21-13 to the Dragons two weeks later.
“Psychologically, if you just beat a good team pretty handily, you might think ‘Well, this is going to be easy,’” he said. “It was a good wake-up call for our guys. Despite their record, that’s a really physical football team, and they ran it right at us.”
There’s a similar dynamic at play in the 3-6 matchup, where Lawrence and Messalonskee meet again after a thrilling 42-38 victory for the Bulldogs, one that saw Lawrence’s Parker Higgins run for 287 yards and six scores and Messalonskee’s Brady Doucette run for 210 yards and account for four touchdowns.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to predict how kids are going to be thinking. Sometimes the scores are looked at, and assumptions get made,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said. “They’ve got to be taking it pretty seriously, because that’s how upsets happen sometimes. A team that maybe won the week before is assuming that everything is going to be just fine, and all of a sudden it doesn’t happen that way.”
Hersom said the fact that the teams just played makes it easy to know what most needs improvements.
“They definitely have some team speed,” he said. “Maybe we were a little bit not prepared for that. The other thing, I think, is the deception they have in their offense. Their quarterback and the backs do a nice job of having that deception. We can’t be unfocused at all.”
Polky said his team gained confidence from the game, but added that preparing for a rematch is strange.
“It’s weird using your own game as a scout tape,” he said. “It’s very difficult. You’re trying to get an advantage and you’re trying to see what they’ll do too. It’s not like you have a couple of games in between where you see if they change or not. That’s what makes it hard, but that’s the chess match.”
Skowhegan will play a Falmouth/Greely team it beat 60-7 in late September, but the Navigators were missing players then and are closer to full strength now.
On the other hand, the River Hawks, who have stability on the offensive line and have seen both their offense and defense heat up in recent weeks, feel they’re playing their best football.
“I would say (confidence is) high,” Libby said. “We haven’t been able to piece it together and have the right combination to get a win against one of the top teams in the league, but we’ve played them all very good. There’s no game that we’ve experienced this year that said to us ‘Oh, you can’t do it.’ In fact, it’s the opposite.”
The only game that isn’t a rematch at all is Mt. Blue at Windham. The Cougars’ offense has struggled to get back into gear after breaking out for 37 points three weeks ago, and it’ll have a tough test against an Eagles team that hasn’t allowed more than 12 points in any game so far.
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