ORONO — The Cony football team made history when it stepped on the Alfond Stadium turf Friday night to play in its first state championship game.
But the Rams came to the University of Maine wanting more.
“We wanted that Gold Ball,” senior quarterback Ben Lucas. “We’ve wanted this forever.”
Cony got it with a stirring 30-23 come-from-behind victory over Kennebunk in a Class B state title game of the ages.
Cony (9-2) trailed 6-0 at the half and 16-0 with just under five minutes left in the third quarter before Lucas and his Rams roared from behind to win the program’s second state title and first since 1932, when there were no playoffs.
Lucas completed 24 of 46 passes for 347 yards — 307 in the second half — and three touchdowns to give him 89 for his storied career.
None were bigger than the one he tossed to Jonathan Saban from 25 yards out with a minute in the game with Cony trailing 23-22. The score, coupled with the two-point conversion pass to Tayler Carrier, gave Cony a 30-23 lead.
“It was a flag route to the corner,” Saban said. “Ben dropped it in there. I don’t even know what to say. Incredible. Just incredible.”
The drive also capped a 99-yard drive after Cony forced a Kennebunk fumble at the 1-yard line with 5:14 remaining.
Kennebunk (11-1) had one last opportunity to tie the game and force overtime, but Cony linebacker Reid Shostak intercepted a Nick Emmons pass near midfield with 15 seconds left.
The turnover sent the Cony sideline and its fans into a frenzy.
“I don’t know, man,” Shostak said. “Pretty freaking awesome. We did it.”
Cony did, but it wasn’t easy.
Using its deceptive triple option and a few timely passes, Kennebunk grabbed the early lead and then seemed poised to take over the game when Nicco DeLorenzo recovered a fumble and raced 53 yards for a touchdown with 4:39 left in the third quarter to help Kennebunk grab a 16-0 lead.
Game over, right?
Lucas, who struggled in the first half, threw two touchdown passes in about a minute span late in the third quarter. The first went to Saban from 16 yards out with 2:14 left in the quarter. Lucas rushed for the two-point conversion to make it a 16-8 game.
After Hallak intercepted Emmons on the ensuing Kennebunk possession, Lucas threw a 29-yard touchdown strike to John Bennett to make it a 16-14 game.
Carrier put Cony ahead 22-16 with a 3-yard touchdown run about two minutes into the fourth quarter.
However, Kennebunk responded when Emmons rushed for a 40-yard touchdown with 7:16 remaining in the quarter to make it a 23-22.
“We knew we had to come back,” Lucas said. “We still had time.”
Added Cony coach Robby Vachon: “We didn’t panic. We just had to put a drive together.”
Cony did with 5:14 left in the game.
The Rams started their final drive at their own 1-yard line, after Elijah Tobey recovered a DeLorenzo fumble. Lucas completed four passes to Saban on the game-winning drive, the last one a touchdown to pull out the victory.
“Ben Lucas took over this game,” Vachon said. “Our community has wanted this for a long time. We worked hard for this.”
DeLorenzo rushed for 114 yards while Emmons went for 121 for Kennebunk. Saban had eight catches for 152 yards to pace Cony.