AUGUSTA — The Cony offense struggled early Saturday night in a Pine Tree Conference Class A semifinal game against Brunswick. The Cony defense also struggled to contain running back Jared Jensen and the Brunswick ground game.
But in the end, both units made enough big plays to extend the best Cony football season in two decades for at least another week.
Ben Lucas threw a 12-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to Dayshawn Roberts and No. 2 Cony hung on to beat No. 3 Brunswick 21-20 in a thriller before about 2,500 fans.
“Nov. 7 of last year we started our offseason workouts,” Lucas said. “I remember the date exactly. What a difference a year makes.”
The Rams (8-2) will play at top-seeded Lawrence (10-0) in the PTC A championship game next weekend.
The Dragons, who finished 7-3, squandered a 14-0 first-quarter lead and then missed an extra point late in the fourth quarter that would’ve tied the game.
“It was a game of inches,” said Brunswick coach Dan Cooper, whose team outgained Cony 412-276 in total yards. “We seemed to be just a few short. But kudos to Cony, they made some unbelievable plays.”
Lucas completed 21 of 34 passes for 227 yards and the touchdown to Roberts, which came on third-and-goal from the 12 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter and the teams tied 14-14. Lucas also threw two interceptions.
Cony standout senior wide receiver Chandler Shostak had five catches for 96 yards. He also rushed for two touchdowns from the Wildcat formation.
Jonathan Saban had seven catches for 55 yards as Lucas spread the ball around to five different players.
Tayler Carrier — who was cleared to play Friday after suffering a neck injury last weekend — finished with five catches for 51 yards.
“Our offense was great when it needed to be,” Cony coach Robby Vachon said. “Our defense, though, was outstanding. Jensen is a special player and we tried to slow him down. We had hoped to keep him out of the end zone.”
No such luck.
The shifty senior running back, who led the conference in rushing with more than 2,000 yards, had a monster game for the Dragons. He rushed for 279 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 36 carries. However, he also had two of Brunswick’s three fumbles that led to 14 Cony points.
“We knew we couldn’t turn the ball over and we knew we couldn’t make many mistakes,” Cooper said.
With the teams tied 14-14 late in the third, Brunswick reached the Cony 44-yard line before it turned the ball over on a botched criss-cross running play.
Defensive end Keith Cloutier, a newcomer to football after transferring from Erskine, recovered the ball for Cony.
“We had to go out and make plays,” he said. “I hopped on that ball quick. It was a big momentum shift.”
The Rams took the lead for good when Lucas connected with Roberts on a curl pattern with 33 seconds left in the third quarter. The score capped a nine-play, 52-yard drive.
“I had to go out and prove myself,” Lucas said. “The play was open before and I wanted to run it again.”
Roberts caught the ball at the Brunswick 3-yard line and made a nice individual effort to reach the end zone, which gave the Rams a 21-14 lead.
“There was no way I was getting that close and not getting in the end zone,” he said.
The score stayed that way until Jensen rushed for an 8-yard touchdown with 5:30 left in the fourth. However, Adam Casey missed the extra point, when he kicked the ball off the left upright.
“He’s been making them all year,” Cooper said. “It’s tough, but that wasn’t why we lost. We had opportunities earlier and we didn’t get it done.”
Added Vachon: “I was ecstatic. It was huge. Those things happen in football.”
The Dragons did have a final chance to win the game in the final minutes. However, Jensen was stuffed on fourth-and-short by Reid Shostak and a host of Cony tacklers with under 20 seconds left.
“It’s just an unreal feeling,” Lucas said. “Unbelievable. Words can’t even describe it.”
Jensen rushed for an 88-yard touchdown with 10:19 left in the second to snap a scoreless tie. He later added a 30-yard scoring run to give Brunswick what seemed to be a comfortable 14-0 lead.
However, Cony slowly clawed its way back into the game, beginning with a Chandler Shostak 1-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left in the second quarter.
Shostak helped pull the Rams even at 14 when he squeezed through the line for a 2-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. The score came after Jensen fumbled at the Brunswick 24-yard line.
Bill Stewart — 621-5640