The Mt. Blue High School football team hasn’t played at Gardiner Area High School since the late 1990s, so head coach Gary Parlin is trying to let his Cougars know what’s in store for them went they run onto Hoch Field tonight.

“Our kids have never gone down to Gardiner,” Parlin said. “We’ve tried to tell them, ‘This is a hornet’s nest you’re going to.’ “

Now that we’ve reached the midseason point, Mt. Blue and Gardiner, both undefeated at 3-0, are starting to play for postseason positioning. The winner of this game remains in the hunt for the overall top seed in the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs.

“This is the time when we’ll start sorting some things out,” Gardiner head coach Matt Burgess said.

In the past, this game would showcase contrasting styles, Mt. Blue’s spread attack against Gardiner’s smashmouth ground game. This season, however, the teams are more alike than perhaps they’ve ever been. With the graduation of tailback Alonzo Connor and the emergence of quarterback Dennis Meehan, the Tigers are more inclined to throw the ball than in recent seasons.

“This is the heart of our schedule. This is where we want to prove ourselves and show we can play,” Meehan said.

In last week’s win at Waterville, Meehan threw for 147 yards and a touchdown. In a Sept. 7 win over Morse, Meehan threw for 67 yards and ran for 64. In receiver Tyler Jamison, backs Steve Sirois and Seth Wing, and tight end Frank Chepke, the Tigers have plenty of offensive options.

“They’re very well balanced. They’re a lot like us in that one guy doesn’t shoulder the whole load. Last year, one guy shouldered the entire load for them,” Parlin said.

Added Mt. Blue co-captain Nick Hyde: “They’re a good football team. They’re definitely the best we’ve played against (so far).”

Mt. Blue’s defense is led by linebackers Bradley Jackson and Chad Luker. Hyde and Jordan Whitney anchor the secondary, while Zak Kendall is a strong defensive end.

“Other than their large offensive and defensive ends, I think we match up pretty well. It will be a good test to see how we are coming along,” Burgess said.

Offensively, Mt. Blue is led by Whitney, arguably the best quarterback in the state. Whitney has completed 68 percent (32 of 47) of his passes for 556 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Hyde (eight catches for 184 yards, four touchdowns), Cam Abbott, and Kendall are the Cougars’ top receivers. When Mt. Blue runs, it’s Luker and Jackson getting the bulk of the carries.

Eli Luker, a 6-foot-5, 265 pound tackle, leads the Mt. Blue offensive line.

“We had a couple good days of practice and we’re feeling really good about the kids being prepared. We’ve been talking about how potent the Mt. Blue offense has been the first two games,” Burgess said. “We need to be prepared for their size and their precision. They run a real precise offense.”

The Cougars haven’t been held under 40 points yet, but against the Tigers, Mt. Blue is not taking offense for granted. Meehan is a strong defensive back, and linebackers Wing and Sirois are other defensive leaders for Gardiner.

“They have 11 guys that swarm to the football,” Parlin said.

Gardiner had a tough game at Waterville last week. Mt. Blue hasn’t had that grind it out game against a strong opponent yet, Parlin said.

“This team, at this point, really needs this. We need a good, hard fought game,” Parlin said. “I’m sure we will get it.”

Staff writer Bill Stewart contributed to this story

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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