The Messalonskee-Lawrence game doesn’t have the same meaning as last season, when it was essentially a playoff game. This year, both teams know they’ll be playing next week. Where the Eagles and Bulldogs will play in the first round of the Pine Tree Conference playoffs is what’s at stake Friday night.

Depending on the outcome of some other PTC B games this weekend, the winner Friday likely will host the loser in the quarterfinals next week. Lawrence comes into the game with five consecutive wins, while Messalonskee is trying to right itself after back-to-back losses in which it had fourth quarter leads slip away.

Here’s a look at the matchup.

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Keyes Field, Fairfield.

Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop on Lawrence: “They’re a typical Lawrence team — they get to the football well. They can do a little between the run and pass. They’re good all the way around.”

Lawrence coach John Hersom on Messalonskee: “I think they are probably the best run-blocking team that we have seen, without question in my mind. We study them a lot and we’ve seen them a lot on tape. They’ve got skilled kids at all the running back positions.”

Three keys for Messalonskee:

• Finish drives.

Two weeks ago against Skowhegan, two fourth quarter turnovers inside the Skowhegan 10 yard line helped spark a game-winning rally by the Indians. Last week at Brewer, Messalonskee had first and goal at the Witches 4 late in the game, but were unable to punch it in for the go ahead touchdown. If the Eagles get chances deep in Lawrence territory, they have to convert.

• Protect the perimeter.

Lawrence has a good group of running backs in Devon Webb, Tyler Larouche, and Gunner McAllister, but quarterback Braden Ballard is a threat to run on a bootleg play, and can throw well, too. Messalonskee’s defense will be at its best if it funnels everything toward the middle of the field.

• Short memory.

Back-to-back losses frustrated the Eagles, but they have to forget the last two weeks and put all their attention on the Bulldogs.

“What happened the last two weeks are done,” Bishop said. “We’re playing to win.”

Three keys for Lawrence:

• Be wary of the trick play.

Messalonskee does not throw the ball often. Quarterback Cam Goff has just 11 pass attempts all season, which is an average quarter for some teams in the PTC B. What the Eagles have done successfully a few times is the halfback pass. Running back Austin Pelletier is 2 for 2 this season for 80 yards, while Goff has just 47 yards passing.

• No extra yards.

Messalonskee has three players among the top nine in the PTC B in rushing yards: Austin Pelletier (968 yards, 18 touchdowns), Colby Dexter (698 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Tyler Lewis (446 yards, four touchdowns). The Bulldogs know Messalonskee is going to move the ball. Lawrence can’t allow Eagles to break tackles and gain extra yards.

“They’re going to be presenting a lot of concerns for us. They’re pretty athletic to go along with it. We have our work cut out for us. I think they give us quite a bit to prepare for. A lot of it similar, what they’re doing with their formations,” Hersom said.

• Special teams.

A strength of Lawrence during its win streak has been special teams play. In McAllister, the Bulldogs have one of the top kick/punt returners in the conference. Setting itself up with short field with good returns would make things easier against a Messalonskee defense that’s stopped the run well.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM