One of the highlights of Saturday night’s Pine Tree Conference Class B quarterfinal game between Skowhegan and Mt. Blue was the success each team had on fourth down. Skowhegan, which won 36-29, was 4 for 5 on fourth downs, including a fake punt in the fourth quarter that kept the game-winning drive moving. Mt. Blue was 5 for 7 on fourth down.
The success didn’t come because the teams faced fourth and short situations. Skowhegan converted a fourth and 6, a fourth and 11, and a fourth and 9.The fourth and 9 was the fake punt, and went for 22 yards when DJ Allen made a diving catch of an Adam Clukey pass. The Indians’ final fourth down conversion, a fourth and goal from the 2-yard line, gave them the lead for good when Kaleb Brown ran for a touchdown.
Mt. Blue converted on fourth and 13 and fourth and 7, along with two fourth down scoring plays in the second half. Quarterback Andrew Pratt had a 3-yard run on fourth and goal late in the third quarter for a touchdown. With just over eight minutes left in the game, Pratt connected with Nate Backus for a 27-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 3. Backus caught the ball along the line of scrimmage, eluded a tackle, and sprinted to the end zone.
The teams were almost as good on third down. Skowhegan converted 8 of 14 third down tries, while Mt. Blue was 6 of 16 on third downs.
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Saturday’s win was Skowhegan’s first playoff victory since 2008, the year the Indians won the Pine Tree Conference Class A title. A key, coach Matt Friedman said, was playing with confidence.
“I’ve just been talking to these kids all season about having confidence in themselves,” Friedman said after the game. “We definitely came out and did what he had to do.”
The win avenged the previous week’s 42-40 loss to Mt. Blue. Now Skowhegan (5-4) faces another team it lost to in the regular season. Brunswick beat the Indians 47-26 on Sept. 27.
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Maine Central Institue did not play its Little Ten Conference semifinal opponent, Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, in the regular season. The teams did meet in a preseason scrimmage, however.
“It was pretty even then. We knew they were going to be one of the better teams in the conference,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said. “We’ve seen them. We’ve hit with them a little.”
The No. 3 seed, Mattanawcook (8-1) advanced with a come-from-behind win over No. 6 Washington Academy. The Lynx rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to take a 22-21 win. MCI (7-1) had a first-round bye and used the week off to get some players healthy, Bertrand said.
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Messalonskee senior fullback/linebacker Dylan Bragg broke his leg in the third quarter of Friday’s 28-21 PTC B quarterfinal win over Hampden Academy and will miss the rest of the season, Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop said.
“He’s just a great kid. He’s just a natural leader. It’s too bad,” Bishop said.
With Bragg out, sophomore Josh Carey will play fullback for the Eagles in Friday’s semifinal game at Cony. Caleb Chavarie, another sophomore, will step in at linebacker.
“Josh will do a good job. He’s just green. He hasn’t seen a lot of reps with the varsity,” Bishop said. “Caleb will do a good job, too. He’s not very big, but he’s fast.”
Messalonskee and Cony played in Week 1, with Cony taking a 48-20 win.
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Waterville gets a crack at the only team it lost to in the regular season, when the Purple Panthers (7-1) host Mt. Desert Island (7-2) in the Eastern C semifinals on Saturday.
MDI beat Waterville, 42-35, in Bar Harbor, on Oct. 18. The Trojans advanced to the semis with a 21-14 win over Old Town on Saturday.
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Old Class B rivals will meet in the Eastern C playoffs on Saturday, when No. 1 Winslow (7-1) hosts No. 5 Belfast (6-3).
Between 1995 and 2004, the Black Raiders and Lions met in the playoffs nine times. Belfast won three Class B state titles over that 10 season stretch, while Winslow won a pair.
This is the first playoff meeting since 2004 between Winslow and Belfast. That game, a regional semifinal, was won by Winslow, 49-24.
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Around the state: Of the five lower seeds to win first-round playoff games, four were seeded No. 5. Westbrook (West B), Skowhegan (East B), Cape Elizabeth (West C) and Belfast (East C) each defeated a four to advance. Sanford, the No. 6 team in West A, advanced with a win at No. 3 South Portland… With first round losses by Mt. Blue and Foxcroft Academy, Thornton Academy of Saco is the only defending state champ left in the playoffs.