Messalonskee vs. Lawrence, take two.

These rivals played in their annual regular-season finale last week at Messalonskee’s Veterans Field, with Lawrence taking a 25-16 win. This week, they move the action a few miles away to Lawrence’s Keyes Field for a Pine Tree Conference Class A semifinal clash.

Messalonskee (6-3) is trying to reach the PTC A championship game for the first time. Despite five undefeated regular seasons in the past six years, Lawrence (9-0) hasn’t played for the conference title since 2007.

“We’re going to have our hands full. The second time around sometimes, it could be a little more difficult now that they know a little bit more about us,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said.

Last week Lawrence outgained Messalonskee in total yards, 339-234. The Bulldogs’ defense shut down the Eagles’ running game, holding Messalonskee to 40 yards on the ground.

“We’ve just got to block and tackle better,” Messalonskee coach Wes Littlefield said. “We didn’t block as well as we could have. Defensively, we had people at the point of attack. We just need to tackle.”

For most of the second half, Messalonskee abandoned its double wing attack for the spread formation. While the Eagles had success passing, 166 of Messalonskee’s 194 yards passing came in the second half. The Eagles ran the ball just 14 times in the second half, 10 of those from quarterback Travis St. Pierre.

Stopping the Eagles’ strong running game, which includes sophomore back Corey McKenzie (1,035 yards, 12 touchdowns) and senior Sam Dexter (682 yards, eight TDs) will be a key again, Hersom said.

“After assessing it for a while after the game, we kind of felt like it worked out the way we wanted it to, because we made them one-dimensional,” Hersom said. “Even though they had a good night throwing, it was going to be hard, if they didn’t hit a deep one or a quick one in the air, to consistently move the ball down the field throwing the ball. To their credit, they did a nice job throwing. All their receivers caught the ball well, so that’s given us some things to focus on this week.”

When Messalonskee throws, St. Pierre (1,104 yards, 11 TDs) has a number of options. Dexter had five catches for 80 yards last week and leads the Eagles with 23 receptions for 437 yards and six touchdowns. Gage Landry (20 catches for 391 yards, three touchdowns) is another top receiving threat, along with tight end Jake Fenlason and McKenzie

“Certainly, they’ve got some athletes we need to be aware of. The Dexter boy is a playmaker,” Hersom said. “So we’re going to really have to be aware of how they align in their formations and what they want to do with their quarterback and Dexter, and the other guys as well. We’re going to have be heads up for everything.”

Lawrence’s offense has been hindered by injuries but not completely slowed down. Senior Alex Leathers stepped in at quarterback the past two weeks for the injured Spencer Carey, and last week at Messalonskee, Leathers ran for 101 yards and threw for 49. There’s a chance Carey could see some snaps at quarterback, but the Eagles will be ready for either Lawrence signal caller.

“They’re both kind of the same, really,” Littlefield said. “They’re both running threats.”

Lawrence’s Shaun Carroll led the league in rushing for most of the season before he was slowed by a groin injury. Carroll ran for 58 yards last week, but his injury, along with a hamstring pull to Josh Doolan, has proved Lawrence’s backfield depth. Anthony Sementelli (450 yards) ran for 94 yards last week. Josh Doolan should be back this week, and his twin brother Jake also could see a carry or two.

Linebackers St. Pierre (92 tackles) and Chris Delisle (83 tackles) will be keys to Messalonskee stopping the Bulldogs run game, which went for 290 yards and averaged 7 yards per carry last week. Dexter leads the league with six interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns.

Defensive tackle Eriq Stewart leads the Lawrence defense with 75 tackles and nine sacks. Defensive end Bryant Wade has a conference-high 10 sacks to go with his 45 tackles. Linebacker/center Josh Perry, who has 64 tackles, missed last week’s game with an injury but should play this week, Hersom said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
[email protected]

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