AUGUSTA — The score was ugly. The stats were uglier. But in the moments and days following his team’s 36-20 loss to Brewer, Cony football coach B.L. Lippert could see the uplifting elements in what could have been a source for utter deflation.

The Rams were up against a bigger team, but they weren’t backing down. They were staring down stronger ball carriers, but they were hitting them as hard as they could. They were down on the scoreboard, but they kept scrapping for all the points that they could.

Cony dropped to 1-4 with the defeat. Record-wise, it was the nadir. As far as Lippert is concerned, it was the turning point.

“We didn’t really know if we had any capability of stopping Brewer. We thought they could go score every possession, and they just didn’t,” he said. “We turned them over a couple of times, forced them to punt a couple of times. We felt pretty good about the defensive effort, and because we showed that we weren’t just going to be some patsy that was just going to get walked over every game.

“I’m not a big believer in moral victories … but I think in some ways, that loss showed us that we could compete against some pretty good teams.”

They’ve been proving it since. The Cony team that was seemingly stuck in a season to forget is now hoping to cap off one to remember. The Rams have won three of their last four games to become one of the last four teams standing in Pine Tree Conference Class B, secured when they upset and stunned Lawrence on a last-second touchdown and 2-point conversion, 28-27, last weekend.

The next game is Friday against Brewer, the team that Cony players and coaches say was the one that convinced them they could even get this far to begin with.

“Even though we lost, we played really, really well,” wide receiver and cornerback Jordan Roddy said. “We could see that. Things started to turn around.”

That things could ever turn around seemed far-fetched in late September when Cony, gashed by graduation, stumbled out of the block. The Rams won their first game over Mt. Blue, 41-22, but the loss of 19 seniors began to take its toll. Cony was routed by Messalonskee (46-14) and crushed by Brunswick (58-14), and in a particularly painful defeat overwhelmed by Lawrence, 36-12, in a game that appeared to stamp out their playoff hopes before the calendar had even rolled into October.

“(Our physicality) really wasn’t there against Lawrence,” Lippert said. “They went up and down the field against us that night.”

The next days in practice, however, Lippert didn’t see a team losing its will. In this way, Cony’s inexperience was a plus. Losing games was tough, but losing games meant playing games. And for the young players and upperclassmen starting for the first time who showed up to practice eager to learn and improve, that was enough.

“I think in most years, being 1-4 would be a really difficult thing. But these kids are so young that those are the first five starts of their life. They just couldn’t wait for a sixth opportunity to play,” Lippert said. “When you have a lot of experience and you get off to a tough start, some of that is like ‘Well, this just isn’t our year.’ And these kids just didn’t believe that. They just were happy to be out there on a Friday night.”

Still, they had to learn to win. The Brewer game may not have done that, but it taught them to compete. The Witches entered with one of the conference’s best running attacks, sporting bruising runners behind an overpowering line, and they kept it up against the Rams. Brewer’s Trey Wood ran for 267 yards and four touchdowns, and the Witches churned out five rushing touchdowns altogether.

Still, Lippert could see the progress. The Rams’ offense, stifled in earlier games, came to life with 184 passing yards and three touchdowns. Cony’s defense was resilient, forcing punts at key moments to keep comeback hopes alive.

And the Rams, out-sized and outmatched, played like they didn’t know it.

“Their running backs are big, they have a lot of big kids,” Roddy said. “Our coach told us that some of their players had said that we were one of the hardest-hitting teams they had played. I consider that an accomplishment.”

“I think we played pretty well that game, had some other opportunities that we didn’t cash in on,” Lippert said. “I think our team saw that that’s a really good football team, and we had a chance to make it close before the half and they kind of pulled away at the end.”

The team turned that progress into wins in the coming weeks. The offense erupted in a 61-26 win over Hampden, and the Rams then shook off a loss to Skowhegan with a 27-18 win over Gardiner.

“The seniors kind of came together, and we said we’ve got to start making changes. We’ve got to start making plays as a group,” quarterback Taylor Heath said. “I think everybody else followed our lead, and we started playing pretty well.”

“I think it would have been easy for our younger players to just kind of (say) ‘Whatever, we’re going to lose,’ ” senior linebacker Nate Demers added. “But then they kind of matured over the season, and we were able to win more games.”

The maturity reached a new height in the playoffs. Cony found itself in a tight game with the same Lawrence team that embarrassed it in September, and needed a winning drive with under two minutes to play.

Lippert told his players they were going to score. He didn’t need to convince them.

“They believed it,” he said. “I saw Jason Barnes nodding his head like ‘Yeah, we’re going to score, we’re going to go for two and win it.’ ”

One minute and 42 seconds later, the Rams had done just that, and the team that seemed destined for a lost season was going wild in celebration after adding another week to it. That means a rematch with Brewer, and after learning they could run with the Witches, the Rams are hoping to go another step further.

“In past years, maybe even last year, we might have thrown in the white flag and said ‘Hey, not a bad season. We’ll get them next year,’ ” Lippert said. “But this group, there aren’t a lot of seniors, but they’re high-character kids that just don’t want to lose. They don’t want to be done playing high school football.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM