The Skowhegan Area High School football team is very much in the mix for a top two seed — and earning a bye to the semifinal round in the upcoming Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs. Messalonskee still has an outside shot at a bye, and could host a first round playoff game for the third straight season.

Skowhegan (4-1) is coming off its first loss of the season, a 56-35 game at Brunswick. While the Indians moved the ball well, they never slowed down Brunswick, either. A week earlier, Messalonskee (3-2) lost at Brunswick, 35-7, a game in which the Dragons scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to pull away.

Here’s a look at the Messalonskee/Skowhegan matchup:

Messalonskee players to watch: FB/S Jack Bernatchez, OL/LB Chase Borssen, HB/DB Colby Dexter, TE/DE Yan Gusmanov, G/DE Caleb Watkins.

Skowhegan players to watch: QB Garrett McSweeney, TE/DE Sam Baker, RB/S Kam Doucette, T/DT Owen Boardman, WR/S Spencer Salley.

Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop on Skowhegan: “They’re going to be tough to defend. I don’t know how long Matt’s been there (Skowhegan head coach Matt Friedman), but this is the best I’ve seen them look on film. They pose a lot of problems for us.”

Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman on Messalonskee: “They’re typical of a Brad Bishop-coached team. They’re running the Wing-T offense very well. They’re tough to stop.”

Three keys for Messalonskee:

1. Control tempo: The best way Messalonskee can keep the Indians offense in check is by keeping it off the field. Few teams in the state run the ball as well as the Eagles. A few clock consuming scoring drives could be the difference in the game.

2. Get McSweeney off his game: Skowhegan quarterback Garrett McSweeney is having a phenomenal season, with 16 touchdown passes and just one interception. The Eagles don’t need to sack him, necessarily, but they do need to get McSweeney out of rhythm.

“The quarterback has a lot of poise back there, and what I’ve noticed is, they pass block real well. I don’t see anybody getting to the guy. We can’t rush seven, I know that. We won’t be able to cover anybody. That’s the (thing) about playing (against) that offense, it’s hard to defend. They do a good job at it,” Bishop said.

3. Keep playing hard: The lack of depth is a big concern for Messalonskee, which cannot afford any injuries. The Eagles have talent, they just don’t have the number of players as many of their opponents. Messalonskee’s starters have to continue to grind away, try and force turnovers, and play hard.

“We don’t have any depth, so we have to hope people stay injury-free and carry out their responsibilities,” Bishop said. “We’ve played some pretty good football, despite the fact that these guys are all playing most of the game, all of the time. We’re in good shape, and we work hard, and hopefully we’ll give them a good game on Friday night.”

Three keys for Skowhegan:

1. Tighten up on defense: Giving up so many points and yards in last week’s loss at Brunswick was an eye-opener, Friedman said. Against another strong running team like Messalonskee, the Indians have to do a better job tackling.

“We have to get off blocks and get to the ball better than we did last week,” Friedman said.

2. Take shots down the field: When Messalonskee played Cony in Week 2, the Rams completed seven pass plays of 15 yards or more, including two for touchdowns. With a handful of good receivers, the Indians will have opportunities for big plays.

3. Don’t focus all the attention on Bernatchez: Messalonskee fullback Jack Bernatchez is one of the leading rushers in the league, but the Eagles have other weapons, including backs Colby Dexter and Caleb Chevarie, and quarterback Austin Pelletier.

“They have a good running quarterback,” Friedman said. “They’re more than one guy.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM