The playoff race in the Pine Tree Conference Class B division is starting to shape up. With three weeks left in the regular season, seven of the league’s nine teams are in the hunt for one of six playoff spots.
Brunswick (5-0), Cony (4-1) and Hampden (4-1) look to be in good shape to make the playoffs. After those teams at the top of the conference, there is a group of four — Lawrence, Messalonskee, Mt. Blue and Skowhegan — all sitting at 2-3. Right now, the team on the outside of the playoff race is Mt. Blue, the defending Class B state champion. The Cougars are just behind Skowhegan for the sixth spot.
“It’s the league that everybody wanted. It’s good games every week,” Mt. Blue head coach Gary Parlin said.
Crabtree points, the system used to determine playoff seeding, are calculated by adding a team’s winning percentage to the winning percentage of its opponents. Messalonskee has the toughest schedule in the league, with its eight regular season opponents sitting a combined 24-16. Hampden, on the other hand, has the easiest schedule in the league, with an opponents record of 13-27.
Of the four 2-3 teams, Messalonskee has the toughest remaining schedule. The Eagles play Brunswick, Hampden and Lawrence.
Lawrence also has a difficult road to the playoffs. The Bulldogs play Westbrook (3-2), Brunswick and Messalonskee.
Things are a little easier for Mt. Blue and Skowhegan. Both play Gardiner (0-5) and Brewer (1-4) before closing the regular season against each other in Skowhegan on the Oct. 25.
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Each week in Class B, there is a crossover game between a team from the East and a team from the West. Through five weeks, the West holds a 3-2 edge in the series.
Eastern teams won the first two weeks, with Skowhegan over Mt. Ararat and Hampden over Gorham, but the West has won the crossover the last three weeks. Morse beat Gardiner in Week 3 and York knocked off Mt. Blue in Week 4. On Friday, Marshwood won at Messalonskee.
This week’s crossover game has Westrook traveling to Lawrence. Cony plays at Greely next week. The season ending crossover game could be the best of the season, with Kennebunk playing at Brunswick. Both the Rams and Dragons are 5-0 and could be undefeated when they play on Oct. 25.
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Mt. Blue is dealing with some injuries to key players. Senior wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner Nate Backus missed Friday’s game against Brunswick with a concussion. Parlin expects Backus to miss at least one more game.
Senior guard/linebacker Connor Farrington suffered a knee injury in the first half of the Brunswick game and is likely out this week against Gardiner. An all-conference lineman last season, Farrington will find out more about his knee later this week, Parlin said.
Along with those injuries, the Cougars have a number of players fighting through nagging injuries.
“We just have a bunch of banged-up guys,” Parlin said. “We have some guys playing with some soreness.”
The injuries forced some younger players to step up, and they’ve improved, Parlin said. He pointed at Nathan Pratt-Holt, a sophomore who has played while Backus has been out, as an example.
“There’s a sophomore who’s getting better every week,” Parlin said.
The Cougars host Gardiner on Friday.
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Around the state: Deering has its third head coach in less than a year. Matt Riddell took over the Rams last week after head coach Scott Parsons resigned in the aftermath of his ejection from a Sept. 27 game at Massabesic. Parsons replaced Jon Gallant, who is now head coach at Massabesic… Old Town slipped itself into the Eastern Class C playoff race with Friday’s 16-0 win over Camden Hills. It was the second win in a row for the Coyotes (3-2)… The big game in Class A this weekend is Thornton (4-1) at Cheverus (5-0), a rematch of last season’s Western Class A championship game. Cheverus now plays in the East, so this game could be a state championship preview, too.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242