The final days of August 2011 were wilting away and the Cony football team was preparing for its first season in the post Luke Duncklee era.

In the week leading up to the annual showdown with Gardiner, Cony coach Robby Vachon talked about his new kid under center — a big, tall, lanky sophomore named Ben Lucas,

“Look, he will make mistakes and we will have to accept that,” Vachon said then. “But he will also make some plays. We haven’t watered anything down for him. We’re going into this season like we have a veteran quarterback. We told him, ‘You will not replace Luke Duncklee.’ He will do what Ben does. He has to find his own niche.”

Twenty-seven months later, the 6-foot-4, 227-pound Lucas established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Maine high school football history.

Lucas threw for 7,575 yards and a state record 89 touchdowns in his career, which ended with a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Kennebunk in the Class B state title game this fall. As a senior, he threw for 3,347 yards and 33 touchdowns.

For his accomplishments this season, Lucas has been named the Kennebec Journal Football Player of the Year.

Prior to his first career start — a 36-34 overtime exhibition loss to Gardiner — Lucas said he was eager to make an impact.

“No one knows who I am so I feel I have something to prove,” he said at the time.

Lucas proved plenty in his career, but saved his finest season for his last. He put up gaudy numbers and lead Cony to its first victory in a state championship game —a 30-23 decision over Kennebunk at Alfond Stadium in Orono late last month.

“It’s just remarkable what we accomplished,” said Lucas, who was named the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year. “It’s just an awesome feeling. I think for most part I’ve been able to prove what I wanted to prove. I know a lot of people never thought we could win the state championship. In that sense, I still had something to prove. Then we won it and we proved it to everyone.”

Lucas, a semifinalist for the James J. Fitzpatrick award, threw for 347 yards in the state title game, including 307 in a wild second half.

He also engineered a memorable 99-yard drive in the final minutes of regulation that gave Cony the improbable victory. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Saban with about a minute left pulled the Rams ahead for good.

“Once (Lucas) got over the awe of playing in a state championship game, he just played football,” Vachon said. “He was as accurate as we’ve ever seen him in that game. When you watch on film the touchdown pass to Saban, there just aren’t a lot of kids who can make that throw. Kennebunk had good coverage but Ben put it where no one else could get it. It was a big-time throw in a big-time game. To do it in that kind of pressure really says a lot about the player Ben is.”

Added Cony junior wide receiver Tayler Carrier: “Ben worked hard in offseason. I knew he’d have the year he did. He was pretty incredible. To be a high school kid who can throw the ball that well, it’s just unbelievable. It’s outstanding.”

Lucas developed into a leader for the Rams.

After a poor first half against Kennebunk — he threw for just 40 yards — Lucas addressed the team.

“I took ownership of it,” Lucas said. “I didn’t play well. I told the guys to keep battling, that we’d respond.”

Lucas and Cony did with an electric second half to win the Gold Ball.

“There really aren’t any words to describe it,” Lucas said. “It’s just an awesome, awesome feeling. The community rallied behind us. Winning the title, it’s been good for Augusta. It’s been an amazing year. For me, it’s a season you always dream about. Winning Gatorade Player of the Year and being nominated for the Fitzy, this is stuff you dream about.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640[email protected]Twitter: @billstewartkj

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