AUGUSTA — Monday afternoon, like it’s done all season, the Cony football team gathered in a small room to watch film before it stretched and ran outside. The Rams spent Tuesday and Wednesday fine-tuning their offense, defense and special teams. On Thursday, the final prep day of the week, they did a light walk-through.
And tonight, like they’ve dreamed of all season, the Rams will travel to Alfond Stadium on the University of Maine campus to make history when they face Kennebunk in the Class B state title game.
Cony (8-2) plays in its first-ever state championship game at 7 tonight against Western B champ Kennebunk (11-0).
“It’s special,” Cony senior quarterback Ben Lucas said. “We’ve wanted this for a long, long time. We’ve always talked about being the group that did something at Cony. We want to make history. We want that Gold Ball.”
Cony won a 1932 state championship, but there were no playoffs in that era.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Cony coach Robby Vachon. “This has been a goal for our kids for a couple years now and finally we’re going to get a chance to play for a Gold Ball (tonight).It’s been abuzz for the last couple years now. This is the first time our football program has been in a tournament state final. We’re pretty excited.”
Cony and Kennebunk feature an array of talented playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they’ll attack each other differently. Cony features one of the top passing attacks in the state, with Lucas enjoying a record-breaking year. The 6-foot-4 senior has completed 203 of 327 passes (62 percent) for 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns this season. His 86 career touchdowns are a state record.
“He is very talented, no doubt,” Kennebunk coach Joe Rafferty said. “They can spread the ball out and they spread it around. Lucas is pretty impressive. He’s one of the best ones we’ll see.”
Wide receivers John Bennett, Jonathan Saban and Tayler Carrier have all put up big numbers as well. Saban has 61 receptions for a team-high 1,004 yards and 13 touchdowns. Carrier has 57 catches for 780 yards and 10 touchdowns while Bennett has 41 receptions for 742 yards and six scores.
“I don’t think there is anyone out there who can just shut us down,” Carrier said. “I don’t think we can be stopped completely.”
Kennebunk, led by senior quarterback Nick Emmons and fullback Nicco DeLorenzo, run primarily out of the pistol formation. In the pistol, the quarterback lines up in the shotgun and has a running back a few yards behind him.
Kennebunk will spread the field as well, only it will do on the ground.
“We’re never under center either,” Rafferty said. “We run a lot of option football. Everything Cony does in the passing game we like to do in the running game. Our strength is our athleticism.”
DeLorenzo has rushed for 1,404 yards and 21 touchdowns on 168 carries. Emmons has completed 55 of 106 passes for 1,091 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 832 yards and nine touchdowns.
“DeLorenzo is a stud,” Vachon said. “They have a lot of athletes. We know a lot about them. We saw them up close and personal last Saturday against Marshwood (in the Western B championship game). Their quarterback is a dual threat and he runs the option really well. He throws the fade well, too.”
Defensively, Cony will look for big games from its linebackers, including Reid Shostak (team-high 118 tackles), Carrier (78) and Charlie Hallak (65).
Kennebunk also features a reliable kicker in Jake Lary. He’s made five field goals this season, with his longest from 32 yards.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Vachon said.
Kennebunk last played for a state title in 1999, when it lost the Class B game to Belfast 29-16. It won its only state title in 1991, a 13-12 decision over Old Town.
“It’s been a long time for us, too,” Rafferty said. “The guys on the team weren’t even alive when we last won a title.”
Cony last season reached the Pine Tree Conference Class A championship game, in which it lost to Lawrence. It was the program’s first regional title game appearance in 20 years.
This year, Cony took it a step farther, although Lucas said no one is satisfied.
“We’re not satisfied just making state game,” he said. “We have a good shot at it and it’s what we want to do. It’s a special feeling being here, but our goal all along is to win the Gold Ball.”
Added Carrier: “To be a part of all of this is special. There is a big buzz about it in school. There has been all week. Everyone has been talking about it and making signs. It’s been awesome. We can’t wait to go up there and try to get it done.”