AUGUSTA — The Cony football team still feels the sting of losing the Pine Tree Conference Class A championship game to Lawrence last fall.
For Oak Hill, it’s been nearly three decades since it last played for a state championship.
The Rams and Raiders can make some history with victories in their respective conference championship games.
No. 2 Cony (7-2) will play at top-seeded Brunswick (7-2) in the PTC B championship game at 7 tonight at Crimmins Field. No. 2 Oak Hill (8-2) will host No. 4 Dirigo (7-3) in the Western D Campbell Conference championship game Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
“The kids are excited, the school is excited and the community is excited,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s been a long time since the program was in this position.”
Oak Hill is hosting a conference championship game for the first time since 1984.
Cony and Brunswick are meeting in the playoffs for a second consecutive season. They squared off in the PTC A semifinals last season, with Cony grabbing a 22-21 victory.
Now, the PTC B title is up for grabs tonight.
“It’s really a special thing to be back in an Eastern Maine final two years in a row,” Cony standout senior quarterback Ben Lucas said. “We have unfinished business.”
The Rams and Dragons feature high-powered offenses, although they gain yardage through different means.
Cony features one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the state, led by Lucas.
The 6-foot-4 Lucas has completed 174 of 285 passes (61 percent) for 2,670 yards and 33 touchdowns. All are single-season Cony records. Tayler Carrier, Jonathan Saban and John Bennett are the primary targets in the passing attack.
“It’s great for our program to be in an Eastern Maine two years in a row,” Cony coach Robby Vachon said. “We are the only sport playing in the high school right now. The kids are feeling really good. We look forward to playing Brunswick again and getting another shot at them.”
Added Brunswick coach Dan Cooper: “I think we’ll see all the things we’ve seen from Cony. They’ll have those five wide receivers spread out all over the place.”
The teams met in mid-September with Brunswick taking a 54-38 win at Crimmins Field. The game featured plenty of offense but not much else.
Brunswick rolled up a whopping 576 yards of total offense. Alex Bandouveres and Lucas McCue each rushed for 150 yards.
The Dragons raced out to a 30-12 lead at the half before Cony stormed back in the second half. Lucas threw three of his five touchdown passes in the second half before Brunswick cemented the victory with a late scoring drive.
“We threw the ball 58 times that night,” Vachon said. “We threw for 463 yards and five touchdowns, too. They couldn’t stop us and we couldn’t stop them. Hopefully, we can control the run.”
Added Lucas: “We expect another shootout really. Both teams are pretty good offensively. We can throw it around the field and they can really run it. Our (defense) has got better since the last time we played them, though.”
McCue and Bandouveres both suffered from a variety of injuries that limited them throughout the season. Both were healthy against the Rams in September, and both will play tonight.
McCue has rushed for 786 yards and 11 touchdowns on 102 carries. Bandouveres has rushed for 449 yards and eight touchdowns.
Cony knows its fate will rest with a defense that has struggled to contain the run at times this season.
“We’ve had plenty of time to look at them on film,” Vachon said. “They are still a dynamic running team. They are very physical up front. Hopefully, we can match them with the physicality. We have to do a lot better job tackling. We’ll also have some different personnel on the field in this game.”
Bennett, who has 60 tackles, started at nose guard against the Dragons in Week 3, but Marshall McLaughlin will draw that assignment tonight. Defensive tackle Isaac Gingras also missed the regular season game but will play tonight.
“We are looking at two very good offensive teams,” Cooper said. “It’s going to come down to the defenses. Whoever can get that key stop will probably win the game.”
In Western D, the Raiders and Cougars will meet for a second straight year in the playoffs.
Dirigo upset Oak Hill in a Western C semifinal game last season.
“They had a great team then so I am sure they have some revenge now,” Dirigo coach Dave Crutchfield said. “We have a big target on us.”
Dirigo, which seeks its second state championship game appearance in five years, stunned top seed Winthrop/Monmouth last weekend. It did so with a bruising ground game led by Brett Beauchesne, Tyler Frost and Heath Hersom.
The trio combined to rush for 313 yards against the Ramblers.
“We’ll have to find a way to slow them down,” Doucette said. “We won’t be able to shut them all down entirely, but we’ll need to slow them down.”
Added Crutchfield: “We’ve been searching for an identity on offense for awhile and we finally decided to put the ball in our best players’ hands.”
The Raiders counter with balanced offense, led by senior quarterback Parker Asselin. Running backs Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty also play key roles. Tight end Luke Washburn is a big target in the passing game as well.
“Parker is just a great quarterback,” Crutchfield said. He has good football smarts and doesn’t get rattled. Washburn is just a beast. He has like 6-foot arms. He’s also a great kid. They have a lot of weapons over there.”