On Saturday mornings, the first thing Gary Parlin usually does is study film. The Mt. Blue High School head football coach tries to find his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Parlin looks for tendencies and mismatches.
This week, studying Skowhegan was like watching a favorite movie. All the lines were familiar.
“We know all of this,” Parlin said.
Last week, Mt. Blue and Skowhegan played at the Indians’ Clark Field. Tonight, they’ll meet again, this time at Mt. Blue’s Caldwell Field, in the Pine Tree Conference Class B quarterfinals.
In the other PTC B quarterfinal, No. 6 Hampden (5-3) plays at No. 3 Messalonskee (5-3). Messalonskee won the regular season meeting against the Broncose, 21-14.
Last week, the Cougars and Indians combined for 799 yards in Mt. Blue’s 42-40 win. With the rematch so soon, both teams are looking at certain adjustments that must be made.
Skowhegan turned the ball over in Mt. Blue territory twice, and also gave the Cougars excellent field position on a botched punt late in the first quarter. Mt. Blue scored on each of the ensuing posessions.
“The thing that we need to get better at is ball security. We had four turnovers in that game,” Skowhegan head coach Matt Friedman said. “Twice we shot ourselves in the foot when we were heading down to score. We just can’t do that.”
Each team has a deep aresenal of athletes, and with each team, it starts at quarterback. Skowhegan’s Adam Clukey and Mt. Blue’s Andrew Pratt are each among the top passers in the conference. Last week, both Clukey and Pratt threw three touchdown passes. Clukey’s three touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter, as the Indians rallied from a 15-point third quarter deficit. Both quarterbacks threw their TDs to three different receivers. Mt. Blue added a fourth touchdown pass, when JT Williams connected with Nate Backus on a halfback pass.
“Just actually seeing their athletes live and seeing how they play, witnessing it first hand is a little bit different. I’m not going to say that they didn’t do anything to surprise us, because obviously the halfback pass caught us off guard. We felt like we had a pretty good read on what to expect,” Friedman said.
Mt. Blue’s receivers are led by Backus and Cam Abbott. Running backs Williams and Kindle Bonsall are also active in the passing game, and share the running chores for the Cougars.
Skowhegan’s running game is led by Kaleb Brown, who ran for 895 yards in the regular season. Wide receivers Owen Mercier and Ben Salley, and tight end DJ Allen, are the top pass catchers on the Indians.
“That’s kind of how we’ve been all year. We spread the ball around. We’re blessed with a lot of really good athletes and it makes it harder on the opposing team if we can get the ball to four or five different guys,” Friedman said.
“We have to do a better job against their running game. Their philosophy is the same as ours, you’re better when you’re balanced,” Parlin said. “You can’t put eight (defenders) in the box, because Clukey will pick you apart.”
Defensively, the Indians are led by a strong group of linebackers, Allen, Brown and Gus Benson. For Mt. Blue, a secondary led by Abbott, Backus, and Bonsall will be key.