AUGUSTA — It was the second half of a forgettable regular-season opener for the Cony High School football team, which was on its way to a 46-0 loss to Messalonskee.

The Rams were out-matched physically against the Eagles, which led to the benching of a few starters whose play and condition aggravated the coaching staff.

Cony senior Phil Obert was among the group of yanked starters.

“It was real tough,” he said. “They took the seniors out and said we didn’t do enough in the offseason. They took us out and put the underclassmen in. It was tough standing on that sideline, watching. We wanted to be out there so bad. We realized we had to really step it up.”

Obert did, becoming one of the top tacklers in Pine Tree Conference A while playing a variety of positions.

The 6-foot, 240-pound Obert finished with nine tackles in a loss to Skowhegan last weekend, giving him a team-best 68.

“He’s one of our leaders on the defense,” Cony coach Robby Vachon said. “We’ve had to move him around a little bit. He gives us a couple different options. He plays four different positions for us. He’s still learning the positions, but there are times when he looks like one of the best players in the league. He’s definitely an impact player on defense.”

Obert, who is playing with a right wrist injury that limits him in practice, starts at linebacker but also sees time at defensive end. He also plays guard and even tight end when the Cony offense is on the field.

Obert, who calls the plays on defense, says linebacker is his favorite position.

It’s also where he makes the most impact on the field.

“I want to lead the defense,” he said. “I wanted to pass 60 tackles this year and I did that. I got faster and I’m able to read guards better now, too. I love running into the fullback and hitting the running back really hard. I’m not too good in pass coverage, but I love getting into the gaps and meeting the fullback. I like to shoot the gaps and stop the run.”

He’s doing it well, his teammates say.

“When Phil is on his game, he is tough,” Cony senior captain fullback Thon Itthipalakorn said. “He’s not afraid to get hurt. He hits hard and he is tough to stop.”

Added senior captain wide receiver/defensive back Chase Shostak: “He’s big and he makes a lot of tackles. He can really stop the run.”

Last season, Obert called the defense with then-seniors Colby Carolin and Levi Mason.

This year, he shouldered that responsibility by himself.

“I know people look up to me to make the right call,” said Obert, who hopes to attend Norwich University next fall. “If someone does something wrong, it all comes back to me. If I mess up, I get mad at myself.”

Vachon said that hasn’t happened much lately.

“He’s played really well,” he said. “You want a leader at linebacker, someone who you know can make plays, and he does that. He’s had a great season for us.”

Opposing coaches are noticing, too.

Skowhegan coach Mike Marston said Obert stood out on film while his team prepared to face the Rams last weekend. Obert stood out even more on the field.

“He’s an excellent football player,” Marston said. “He plays very hard and seems extremely disciplined. Cony has improved and he has a lot to do with that. Defensively, he is really something. He stands out.”

Cony (1-5) hosts Lawrence (6-0) in a PTC A game Friday night at Alumni Field.

Lawrence coach John Hersom said the Bulldogs “need to be aware of him out there.”

“We had a chance to see him play against Mount Ararat (on Sept. 17) and he caught our attention in that game,” he said. “He was in on a handful of tackles that day. We took notice of him then. I think he’s a real spark for that defense. He gets around the football a lot and we need to be aware of his aggressive, instinctive play.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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