In Friday’s 36-33 win over Brewer, Messalonskee’s offense did most of its work on the ground. The Eagles ran for 392 yards on 52 carries, and had 16 runs of 10 or more yards. Four of Messalonskee’s five touchdowns came on the ground, but the fifth, and final came on a pass play the Eagles have been trying to perfect all season.

Trailing 33-29 with seven and a half minutes to play, Messalonskee took over on its own 44 yard line. A toss to Austin Pelletier on first down was snuffed out by Brewer for a four yard loss. Pelletier got back two yards with a run up the middle on second down, setting up the Eagles with third and 12 from their own 42.

Coach Brad Bishop called a pass that gave quarterback Deklan Thurston two options, tight end Makanatoa Aveau on the left and back Tyler Lewis down the middle. Thurston stepped up in the pocket and threw a perfect pass to a wide open Lewis for a 58-yard touchdown and the lead.

“We’ve been working on that for quite a while in the season. With one free safety high, we felt one of those two guys would be open,” Bishop said.

It was the second time the Eagles ran the play in the game. The first time, on second down and two at the Brewer 16 in the final minute of the second quarter ended in disaster. Thurston was sacked from his blind side by Brewer’s Jacob McCluskey, who also recovered Thurston’s fumble on the play. When Messalonskee called the play again in the fourth quarter, Thurston evaded a tackle and stepped up in the pocket to make his throw just before he was hit by a group of Witches.

“We ran it again, and Deklan dodged a tackler and came up inside and saw Tyler. It was a beautiful pass. He caught it right in stride. It was a great throw,” Bishop said. “It was third down and 12. I don’t know what we would’ve called (on fourth down) if it was dropped. Finally some luck went our way.”

Messalonskee is still a run-first team, but the development of Thurston as a passer gives the Eagles a dimension opposing defenses have to consider. For the game, Thurston was 4 for 5 for 96 yards. Three of Thurston’s completions came on third down, and either led to a first down or a score. His fourth completion, a five-yard pass to Alden Balboni on a fourth down in the third quarter, was one yard shy of the first down.

“He’s a tough kid. He’s only a sophomore, and he’s getting better. He manages the game pretty well. He did a good job,” Bishop said of Thurston.

• • •

Friday’s 23-20 win over Brunswick wasn’t a character building game for Lawrence. Rather, the game revealed the Bulldogs character, coach John Hersom said.

“The kids definitely have that character to hang in there,” Hersom said. “We have that leadership.

Lawrence trailed early, 12-0, and 20-13 at the half, before the defense clamped down in the second half. A couple defensive adjustments turned out to be key moves for the Bulldogs. First, to counter Brunswick’s success running to the perimeter, Lawrence had its safeties creep up and focus on run stopping first, rather than pass protection. Second, the defensive ends widened a little on the line, keeping leverage on their outside, Hersom said.

This week at Skowhegan, the Bulldogs will most certainly need to focus on pass defense first, against the top passing offense in the Pine Tree Conference Class B.

“It’s going to be a task to control all of that. They do it with multiple athletes, not just one or two,” Hersom said.

• • •

With Saturday’s 56-0 win over Houlton, Nokomis reached an important milestone in the program’s varsity history. The win ensures the Warriors will finish the season with a winning record for the first time since becoming a varsity team in 2007.

Nokomis came close to a winning record in 2014, going 4-4 in Class C North. The Warriors were a Class B sized-school, however, and ineligible for the playoffs. After back-to-back winless seasons in Class B, Nokomis’ enrollment has the team back in Class C, and the Warriors will be heading to the playoffs. Currently, the 5-1 Warriors are in third place in the region, behind Mt. Desert Island (5-1) and Winslow (5-1). Nokomis closes the season with a game at home Saturday against Belfast (0-6), and a trip to Bar Harbor to face MDI.

• • •

Just for fun, let’s play a game of what if. What if Maine high school football playoffs were still determined using the Crabtree Point formula, instead of Heal Points? The biggest difference in the systems is, Crabtree Points reward playing a tough schedule, while Heal Points reward wins over good teams. For example, using Crabtree Points, Messalonskee gets credit for playing Kennebunk (6-0) and Falmouth (4-2). Using Heal Points, those game don’t help Messalonskee, as each was a loss.

Let’s look at the Pine Tree Conference Class B, aka Class B North. With three teams sitting 4-2 and no favorite even this late in the season, the league’s playoff seeding is wide open. Currently, the top six teams in the Heal Point standings, in order are Lawrence (4-2), Messalonskee (4-2), Brewer (2-4), Skowhegan (3-3), Cony (4-2), and Mt. Blue (1-5).

When the teams are ranked using Crabtree Points, there are some changes. Messalonskee leaps over Lawrence to the top seed, thanks to an opponents’ record (15-21) that is one win better than Lawrence’s (14-22). Skowhegan jumps to third place. Skowhegan’s opponents are 18-18, and that’s enough to keep them ahead of Cony, who have played the weakest schedule so far of the playoff contenders (10-26). Still, at 4-2, Cony’s moves up one spot to fourth.

Brewer’s tough schedule (20-16) so far isn’t enough for the Witches to overcome a 2-4 record, and using Crabtree Points, Brewer falls to fifth place. Brunswick is winless, but the Dragons opponents are 25-11, the toughest in the conference so far, and that’s enough to push Brunswick into the sixth and final playoff spot over one-win Mt. Blue.

All the playoff positioning will sort itself out in the next two weeks. Lawrence has games remaining against Skowhegan and Messalonskee. Cony plays Messalonskee this week. Mt. Blue and Brunswick also meet this week. No system is perfect, and no matter what formula you use, good teams will be playing in November.

• • •

Around the state: The big game in the state this weekend is the Class B South showdown between undefeated Marshwood and undefeated Kennebunk… At the other end of the spectrum, Massabesic plays at Bangor in a battle of the last two winless teams in Class A… A big crossover game in Class C is Leavitt (6-0) at Mt. Desert Island (5-1). Each is in first place in its region… When Biddeford beat Skowhegan, 56-54, Friday, it was the most combined points in a Maine high school game since Belfast defeated Madison, 82-60, in 2014.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM