For the first time in six years, the Cony football team showed up to school without a win over longtime rival Gardiner to boast about. So given the span since it last happened, it makes sense that the school wasn’t quite sure how to handle it.

“It’s kind of funny,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “A couple of teachers today at school thought our season was over.”

That can be the feeling when you lose to your nemesis — particularly when that loss comes on a walk-off play in overtime, as was the case with Friday’s 13-7 defeat.

“When you lose to Gardiner, sometimes it feels like the world has ended,” he said. “We just have to fight that this week and realize ‘Hey, all of our goals are still ahead of us.’ ”

And they are. At 5-3, Cony is alive and well in the Class B playoff chase. The Rams are seeded third in the North region, with a scheduled date Friday night with 1-7 Brunswick. They’re opening at home. By all measures, things are good in Augusta.

“I tell myself and tell the team and anyone that will listen, ‘Hey, if you told us preseason (we’d be) 5-3 and the three seed, I don’t think there are many people around the state and prognosticators that had us there,” Lippert said. “So if you look back at that meta perspective, it’s been a great season.”

Still, it isn’t easy to shake off a loss to the team down the Kennebec. Even during the weekend film session, Lippert could sense that the defeat was eating at his players.

“I think Saturday was a little somber in there, watching the film,” he said. “We use it as an instructional thing. We’re not there to lament missed plays and (say) ‘Boys, we should have won this.’ That’s not really the place for that.”

There is, however, a focus at Cony on how it lost that game — specifically, where things need to get better.

“They think we didn’t play very well in the red zone, and anyone that was there realizes that,” said Lippert, whose team got inside the Gardiner 20-yard line six times and came away with only seven points. “We just didn’t finish in the red zone, and that’s a credit to them without a doubt. … It’s also something that we need to correct, and that starts with me. We’ve got to come up with something.”

Struggles in the red zone have popped up now and again throughout the season, and Lippert said there hasn’t always been a quick fix.

“If I knew, I guess we would have dialed it up on Friday night,” he said. “We’ve spread people out and tried to run it. We’ve spread people out and tried to throw it. We’ve tried to kind pack it in in what we call our heavy formation and run it with a couple of fullbacks in there behind them, and we’ve had varying success throughout the year in any of those.”

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After looking like a team going nowhere during the first half of the season, Winthrop/Monmouth spent the second half looking like a potential thorn in the side of its playoff competition.

The Ramblers have won three out of their last four games, the latest one a particularly impressive 41-6 triumph over Mount View that wrapped up the sixth seed in the Class D South playoffs. It also completed the rebound from a disappointing 28-26 loss to Oak Hill.

“To come out and put up 28 points in the first quarter, score on all three of our offensive drives, we put Oak Hill past us and we were moving forward,” coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “The hardest thing was waiting until Saturday to play a football game and put it behind us.”

Winthrop/Monmouth is gaining confidence, and getting healthier in the process. Injuries early on depleted the Ramblers’ defensive line, but Zac Wallace returned three weekends ago against Poland while Noah Elegbide — who had two sacks against Mount View — came back last week against Oak Hill. Trenton Wood was finally at full strength last weekend against the Mustangs following an illness as well.

“Our defensive line wasn’t quite where we wanted them to be health-wise against Oak Hill,” St. Hilaire said. “We’re playing much better defensively, and the last three weeks of practice have been outstanding. There’s a difference just in practice with the mentality, the focus and the crispness of executing when we run plays offensively and defensively.”

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With the eighth seed in the D South playoffs and matchup with No. 1 and unbeaten Wells coming up, Oak Hill (3-5) may appear poised for an early playoff exit.

Stacen Doucette, however, doesn’t think his team should be counted out so quickly.

“I think we’re a tough out for anybody,” he said. “I think that we’re much better than our record indicates. … We’ve lost eight games in the last two years, and we’ve been leading or down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter in seven of the eight games.”

Indeed, close losses have marked Oak Hill’s season. The Raiders fell in one-score games to Oceanside (28-20) and Lisbon (20-14, last week), were down 14 points going into the fourth quarter against Madison and were tied at halftime and down seven points in the fourth quarter to the very Wells team they’ll play next on Friday.

That Wells game ended as a 41-21 win for the Warriors, but Doucette said his team can draw confidence from how the game played out.

“I think we learned that we can score points against good teams,” he said. “We’ve just got to stay close in the fourth quarter and then try to make some plays.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM