It’s been a difficult season for the Gardiner football team, which has lost all seven games by a combined 292-30.
However, Gardiner knows it can erase a fall of futility by stunning Cony in the regular-season finale Friday night.
The historic series, which Cony leads 68-57-10, resumes at 7 p.m. Friday at Alumni Field in Augusta.
It’s the first regular-season meeting between the teams since 2004. Gardiner dropped to Class B in 2005 and the teams continued their series through exhibition games at either the beginning or end of their respective seasons.
Cony joined the Pine Tree Conference Class B this fall with the implementation of the four-class system. The Rams have won three of the last four meetings, including a 26-15 decision last year at Hoch Field.
“This game will cap a rough year,” Gardiner coach Matt Burgess said. “But we know it can make or break our year. I think it’s great to get this game at the end of the season. It was interesting to have it at the beginning. It was an exhibition game that you had to win.”
The game is part of the Great American Rivalry Series as presented by the U.S. Marine Corps and Hibbett Sports. The series, which Rick Ford founded, highlights a variety of top rivalry games throughout the country.
“It’s pretty cool,” Burgess said. “They’ve been contacting us all week.”
The teams are heading in opposite directions as the regular season concludes.
The quick-scoring Rams (5-2) can finish as high as second in the PTC B with a victory. The top two seeds receive byes to the semifinals. The Tigers (0-7) are playing for pride, their playoff hopes dashed weeks ago.
“We need a win,” Cony coach Robby Vachon said, “and it’s still Cony-Gardiner. It doesn’t matter if they are down or if we were down. It’s still a big game to us. We know they are 0-7 but you never know what can happen. They have nothing to lose. They’ll throw anything and everything at us, I’m sure.”
Added Burgess: “I don’t even know if we have different things to come up with. We still need to do the little things, like blocking and tackling. We need to block and tackle soundly; if we do that maybe we can throw a wrinkle at them.”
Gardiner will host a rally at 6 p.m. Thursday in advance of the game. There will be a bonfire and the football team will be raising money for the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta.
The rally will also help show support for the soccer and field hockey teams.
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The Winthrop/Monmouth program can close out a perfect regular season for the first time since Winthrop went 8-0 in 2008.
The Ramblers reached the Class C state title game that season, losing 21-14 to John Bapst.
Coach Joel Stoneton said this year’s team is much deeper than his 2008 squad.
“The thing we have this year is more talent with the depth,” Stoneton said. “In 2008, we had (Jordan) Conant, (Jake) Steele, (Riley) Cobb and (Skylar) Whaley, but we didn’t get any deeper than that. We do this year.”
The Ramblers (7-0) have all but locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western D Campbell Conference playoffs. They will host Maranacook (4-3) on Friday night.
Stoneton said he is trying not to pay attention to what is unfolding in the Big Ten Conference.
However, he acknowledged he was aware that Buckfield toppled Maine Central Institute in a game last weekend between the top two teams in the conference.
“We saw the score,” he said. “It was a big game up there but our focus is taking care what we need to take care of.”
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Maranacook will play for a top-four seed and a home playoff game when it travels to Maxwell Field on Friday.
The Black Bears are fifth in Crabtree points, which determine playoff positioning, but a victory over the Ramblers could bump them up to fourth.
“I think we can beat anybody in the league,” Maranacook coach Joe Emery said, “if we play aggressively and play with passion. We have some playmakers on offense. We don’t put up the numbers that other teams do, but we make up for it in other areas.”
The teams enjoy a spirited rivalry, but this is their first meeting since Maranacook toppled Winthrop 40-6 in 2011.
“It seems a little odd that we haven’t played them in awhile,” Emery said. “We also finally got the schedule right by playing them in the last week of the regular season. It’s how it should be. We’ve been trying to do this for a few years.”
The teams didn’t play last year because the then-Western C Campbell Conference was divided into large and small school divisions.
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Oak Hill (5-2) will host Lisbon (6-1) in a key Western D Campbell Conference game Saturday.
The winner will likely wrap up the second seed heading into the playoffs.
“It’s always nice to get as high as you can,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “We’re excited. It’s going to be a good challenge.”
Both teams also come into the weekend with the dim prospect of being without key players.
Lisbon all-everything Quincy Thompson suffered an elbow injury in a 22-14 win over Dirigo last Saturday. Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan said Thompson could miss several weeks, if not the rest of the season.
“He wants to be out there,” he said. “I think we’d have to win at least one playoff game for him to get back into it. It changes everything for us. He does so much. He kicks, punts and plays everywhere. We have to re-group.”
Oak Hill could also be without starting quarterback Parker Asselin for a second straight week. Asselin, a senior, suffered a shoulder injury in a 40-6 win over Boothbay on Oct. 12.
Dalton Therrien started last Saturday for the Raiders, and played well in a 35-8 win over Traip. He threw for 115 yards and rushed for a touchdown.
“I think it will be a game-time decision this week,” Doucette said. “But we trust Dalton. He’s played really well and we feel comfortable with him in there.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640