Staff Writer

Lawrence quarterback Spencer Carey was cleared to do some throwing this week, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be under center when the Bulldogs host Messalonksee in a Pine Tree Conference Class A semifinal game Friday night, coach John Hersom said.

Alex Leathers played well at quarterback in Lawrence’s 25-16 win at Messalonskee last week, and he played approximately half the game at quarterback the previous week in a 10-7 win over Brunswick.

At Messalonskee, Leathers ran for 101 yards and threw for 49. His 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the Bulldogs a 22-7 lead.

“Throughout our season, he’s been getting double duty in practice at wideout as well as the quarterback spot. He knows the entire offense,” Hersom said. “We thought having played a little bit the week before kind of helped him be a little more comfortable. He showed a lot of confidence in what he needed to do against Messalonskee.”

Despite his shoulder injury, Carey has played safety for the Lawrence defense, and at times lined up as a wide receiver against Messalonskee. He had two catches for 10 yards.

Hersom said the Bulldogs expect to get some other injured players back this week, including center/linebacker Josh Perry and halfback/linebacker Josh Doolan.

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This will be the second time Messalonskee and Lawrence meet in the playoffs one week after their annual regular season finale. When it happened in 2006, Lawrence took a 29-7 semifinal win on the way to the Class A state championship.

Playing an opponent twice in a row, especially a big rival, can be tough.

“It has its ups and downs,” Messalonskee coach Wes Littlefield said. “At least we know what type of team they are, speed-wise.”

Both teams expect to tweak some things on both sides of the ball, but neither will make wholesale changes.

“We’re kind of looking at things we saw in our game Friday night. We definitely don’t want to be changing too many things drastically, but we feel we’ll be able to look and learn from what we saw last week and try and make adjustments,” Hersom said. “These guys are high school kids. We’ve only got so many hours to work with them, and we don’t want to overburden them with too many changes.”

Added Littlefield: “We might make little, subtle adjustments. We’ve got to execute. That’s the biggest thing.”

Neither coach will need any tricks to fire up his team.

“Everyone considers this to be a pretty good rivalry. It will definitely be easy for us to have a great week of preparation, realizing that they’re going to be a very tough opponent for us,” Hersom said.

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With all the offensive firepower on the Mt. Blue roster, it’s easy to overlook senior wide receiver Chris Malone. At 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, he’s the smallest of the Cougar receivers. But Malone continues to make big play after big play.

Malone scored a pair of touchdowns in the Cougars’ 43-7 win over Mt. Desert Island on Friday. To defend the Trojans strong running game, Mt. Blue stacked more players on the line of scrimmage, which gave Malone a chance for his first start on defense. Playing linebacker, Malone was in on eight tackles.

“He’s almost the forgotten guy out of all our skill players,” Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin said. “He’s made some big catches.”

Parlin pointed to a pair of catches Malone made down the seam in the Cougars’ regular season win at MDI in September. Mt. Blue trailed early, the Malone’s receptions helped spark the offense to a come-from-behind win.

At Waterville in the regular season finale, Malone made a 46-yard touchdown catch in the closing minutes of the second quarter to put Mt. Blue on top for good. This season, Malone’s improved blocking has made the sweep an important option in the Cougars’ playbook.

“He’s played all over, but the slot is definitely where he belongs,” Parlin said. “He’s a small guy but a tough guy … He’s become a very good blocker just through hard work.”

Mt. Blue (8-1), the No. 2 seed in the PTC B playoffs, hosts No. 3 Gardiner (7-2) on Friday.

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Around the state: The quarterfinals were good to No. 5 seeds around the state. Four of the five — Deering, Westbrook, Hampden Academy and Foxcroft Academy — won their opening playoff game. Lisbon, in Western C, was the lone No. 4 seed to advance to the regional semifinals. … Orono will host John Bapst in a Little Ten Conference semifinal on Friday night at the University of Maine. The Red Riots played MCI in the quarterfinals at Maine, and their home field is still unplayable. … All four LTC quarterfinal games were won via shutout.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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