Lawrence and Mt. Blue was one of the fiercest rivalries in the Pine Tree Conference for decades. When Mt. Blue dropped to Class B in 2011, the rivalry took a two-year break.

Last season, the teams were once again in the same conference, and the Cougars dominated the Bulldogs in Farmington. Now, the teams play at Keyes Field in Fairfield for the first time since the 2009 season.

Here is a look at the Mt. Blue-Lawrence matchup.

When: 7 tonight

Where: Keyes Field, Fairfield

Last season: Mt. Blue 39, Lawrence 0

• Mt. Blue players to watch: RB/LB JT Williams, QB Ryan Pratt, C/K Anthony Franchetti, WR/DB Nate Pratt-Holt, RB/DB Alex Gilbert.

• Lawrence players to watch: T/LB/K Chad Martin, G/DT Jesse Dodge, UT/S Cody Martin, WR/LB Kyle Robinson, C/LB Lucas Knox.

• Mt. Blue coach Jim Aylward on Lawrence: “I’m new to the league, but I’m not new to the planet. I know that’s an excellent football community. If you go down to Lawrence, to Fairfield, and somehow escape with a win, you’ve really accomplished something.”

• Lawrence coach John Hersom on Mt. Blue: “They looked very good on the video we saw. They definitely have a good running attack. Their quarterback (Pratt), he looks like he’s a capable thrower. He’s got some receivers. It’s going to be another good challenge. I just spoke to our guys how each week, we should expect to see not only ourselves improving, but our opponents improving. We expect they’ll be a little better than what they showed against Hampden.”

• Three keys for Mt. Blue:

1. Continue to mix in just enough of the passing game. In last week’s 54-13 win at Hampden, Mt. Blue was primarily a running team. Of the Cougars’ first 37 offensive plays, 31 were rushes. When Mt. Blue did throw, it turned short passes into big gains. Williams had four catches for 84 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown play.

2. Build on new experience and get tougher. “We want to have a certain toughness so we can match up with anyone, anywhere, any style. We’re getting there,” Aylward said. “We’re a lot of kids who got their first real varsity experience Friday night (at Hampden). Like a lot of other people, we’re a work in progress.”

3. Get off to a strong start. Mt. Blue trailed Hampden, 13-12 in the second quarter last week before reeling off 42 consecutive points. If Lawrence builds any sort of lead, don’t expect the Bulldogs to give it up easily.

• Three keys for Lawrence:

1. Tackle, and tackle some more. Missed tackles lead to sustained drives, and Hersom has addressed the problem with his team. “We’re still a little, I don’t know if the word is careless, but we’re not really tackling the way we need to tackle against the teams in this league. A lot of teams like to run the football first, so if we’re not tackling well, it’s going to be a breakdown for us. We need to make defense the backbone of our team, and right now, I don’t feel like we’ve actually established that,” Hersom said.

2. Continue ball-hawking on defense. This Mt. Blue team is unlikely to throw as much as Cougar teams of the recent past, but when they do, Lawrence needs to continue to have a nose for the ball. The Bulldogs returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns last week.

3. Use special teams to control field position. The Bulldogs have one of the best kickers in the state in senior Chad Martin. His deep kickoffs can put Mt. Blue on long fields, and his strong leg can salvage stalled drives with field goal opportunities.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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