OAKLAND — The Messalonskee High School football team is accustomed to frustrating opposing team’s defenses over the years with a complicated and successful double wing offense.

No one has struggled more with it than Cony, particularly the last two seasons.

“They beat us up physically last year,” Cony coach Robby Vachon said. “They are your typical Messalonskee team: Tough.”

And tough to stop.

The high school football season kicks off the regular season tonight with a handful of intriguing showdowns.

Cony plays at Messalonskee in a Pine Tree Conference Class A game between two playoff hopefuls.

Elsewhere tonight, Waterville visits Mount Desert Island in a key PTC B game. Both teams hope to contend for a top-four finish in the league and a home game in the playoffs. Gardiner will travel to Belfast in another PTC B game tonight.

In Western C Campbell Conference, two-time defending state champ Yarmouth will play at Oak Hill at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Cony is coming off a 26-15 victory over rival Gardiner in an exhibition game last week. The Rams hope to capitalize on that momentum, although it won’t be easy.

“We’ve been watching them on film and they look good again,” Vachon said. “They are physical, but it will be good to see where we match up. It will give us an idea of where we are physically.”

The Eagles crushed the Rams 46-0 in the season opener at Alumni Field last season.

Messalonskee piled up 401 yards of offense, including 341 in the first half. It scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and four more in the second.

“We are going to have to limit turnovers,” Vachon said. “You only get a few possessions and you can’t be turning the ball over. On the flip side, we have to cause some turnovers.”

Messalonskee will play its first regular-season game without PTC A player of the year Sam Dexter, who graduated and is attending the University of Southern Maine.

The Eagles will lean on several capable ball carriers, led by Cory MacKenzie and converted fullback Jake Stinson, who played guard last season.

MacKenzie rushed for 1,035 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

“I think our offense can be plenty good enough,” Stinson said.

The concern, Messalonskee coach Wes Littlefield said, is how the team’s young secondary will be able to handle Cony’s passing game. Messalonskee sophomores Zach Mathieu and Jake Dexter, along with junior Devin Warren, will certainly be tested tonight.

“Hopefully, we can get enough pressure up front,” Littlefield said. “You really have to pay attention. The back end of it is a concern. We need to make sure we close lanes off.”

Cony returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense. It finished 2-7 last season and failed to reach the PTC A playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Junior quarterback Ben Lucas returns to lead the Rams, who will spread the field and try to attack the Eagles with their passing game.

It’s a sharp contrast to what Messalonskee will do with the ball.

“When it comes right down to it, they know what we’ll try to do and we know what they’ll try to do,” Vachon said. “There aren’t a lot of secrets.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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