SKOWHEGAN — Throughout the first half of the season, the Skowhegan Area High School football team proved itself to be the top passing team in Pine Tree Conference Class B. On Friday night against Messalonskee, the Indians proved they can run the ball pretty well, too.

Skowhegan ran for 277 yards, marching up and down the field for a 33-21 win over the Eagles. Skowhegan improved to 5-1, while Messalonskee dropped to 3-3.

A week after throwing for more than 450 yards, Skowhegan quarterback Garrett McSweeney ran for a game-high 171 yards on 23 carries. McSweeney had to think when asked when was the last time he ran so much.

“Probably never,” McSweeney, who ran for a touchdown, threw a pair of touchdown passes and passed for 163 yards, said. “I’m just here to do what’s best for the team and do my job.”

Wet field conditions and Messalonskee’s defensive scheme dictated Skowhegan’s game plan, coach Matt Friedman said. With the Eagles defense featuring a deep safety to prevent the long pass, the Indians saw room up the middle to run.

“The way they covered our receivers, it left a lot of open ground for Garrett to run the ball up the middle, and we went with it,” Friedman said. “We still did OK passing, but the run was there, so we took it.”

Early, it was Messalonskee that found success on the ground. On the game’s first play, Jack Bernatchez went up the middle for a 73-yard touchdown run, and Messalonskee had a 7-0 lead 20 seconds in.

Bernatchez ran for 136 yards on 13 carries, but sat out the fourth quarter with a left foot injury.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to be. It may be something where (Bernatchez) doesn’t practice all week and plays. We’ll see how it goes,” Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop said.

Ahead 14-13 at the half, Skowhegan scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to pull away. The Indians took the opening drive of the third quarter and went 80 yards in nine plays, scoring on Kam Doucette’s two-yard run. It was the first of three second half touchdowns for Doucette, who finished with 81 yards rushing and 34 receiving.

With 46 seconds left in the third, Doucette caught a 9-yard shovel pass from McSweeney for a 27-13 lead. Messalonskee answered 32 seconds into the fourth, when CJ Gordon scored on a 3-yard run, and Caleb Chevarie ran in the 2-point conversion to cut Skowhegan’s lead to 27-21.

The Indians iced the game with a five minute scoring drive, capped by a five yard Doucette touchdown run.

After giving up some big gains early on Messalonskee trap plays, like the one Bernatchez scored on, Skowhegan’s defense tightened up.

“We went to a six man front, and just told our big guys up front it was there job to do what they could to string it out, and overall, they did a pretty good job. The quarterback (Austin Pelletier) got away from us a few times, but we did OK,” Friedman said.

The teams traded turnovers early in the first quarter, and Skowhegan capitalized, scoring on a three yard McSweeney run with 10:31 left in the first to cut Messalonskee’s lead to 7-6. Skowhegan took the lead with 34 seconds left in the first, when McSweeney hit Jon Bell for a 28 yard touchdown pass down the right sideline on a fourth and six play.

Colby Dexter’s 45-yard touchdown with 53 seconds left in the second quarter pulled the Eagles to within 14-13.

Skowhegan’s running didn’t take the Eagles by surprise, Bishop said. Messalonskee just couldn’t stop it.

“They ran well tonight. It’s part of that offense. I told you, it’s tough to defend. It’s six on six in the box, and their six got after it,” Bishop said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM