LAWRENCE — Most coaches will tell you every game is a ‘must-win’ game, but this one certainly has a little more importance as Cony prepares to take on Lawrence Friday at 7 p.m. at Keyes Field.

The Bulldogs are off to a 3-0 start and can put some serious distance between themselves and the defending Class B champs with the Rams sitting at 1-2 in the standings.

Once again Cony brings its signature spread offense to the table, and quarterback Mitchell Caron has been impressive so far running it. Lawrence has the perfect counter punch though, an opportunistic secondary featuring Cody Martin, Seth Powers, Derek Raven, Jared Champagne and J.T. Nutting.

Here’s a look at the matchup:

• Last season: Cony defeated Lawrence 34-26 during the regular season.

• Cony players to watch: WR/LB/KR Tayler Carrier, QB Mitchell Caron, RB/LB Reid Shostak, OL/DL Elias Younes, WR/CB Joel Bennett, WR Kyle Armstrong, WR Anthony Brunelle, DT/OL Elijah Tobey.

• Lawrence players to watch: QB/DB Cody Martin, RB/OLB Phil Gadway, RB Walker Thomas, G/DT Jesse Dodge, T/LB/K Chad Martin.

• Cony coach Robby Vachon on Lawrence: “They’re a good team and well coached. They play with a lot of energy.”

• Lawrence coach John Hersom on Cony: “They’re really playing physical football. They appear to have a number of guys that play that way throughout the game. I think their linebackers have got to be the top linebackers — against the run especially — in the league. We’re going to have our hands full consistently moving the ball running the football.”

Three keys for Cony

1. D—FENCE. In its last two games Cony has given up a total of 98 points. The Rams have one of the best offense’s in PTC B, but they will have to be better defensively as they can’t rely on scoring at least seven touchdowns in order to win.

2. Ball security. The Rams turned the ball over four times last week, while Brunswick did not give the ball away once. Cony will have to do a better job of taking care of the football against another quality opponent in Lawrence.

3. Play for 48 minutes. Cony was neck-and-neck with Brunswick early in the third quarter, but a rough six-minute stretch put the Rams in a hole of which they could not dig themselves out. The Bulldogs will have their hands full if Cony can put together a complete-game performance.

Three keys for Lawrence

1. Strength vs. strength. Cony quarterback Mitchell Caron is 65-for-108 with 849 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions this season and has a bevy of weapons to choose from in Carrier, Shostak, Bennett, Armstrong and Brunelle. That being said, if there is a team built to defend the Rams’ spread offense, it is Lawrence. Cody Martin — who has four interceptions on the season — leads a strong Bulldogs secondary.

2. Ball control. After scoring with 9:38 left in the third quarter in last week’s loss to Brunswick to make it a one-point game, the Rams ran just one offensive play over the next 5 minutes and 41 seconds as momentum swung decidedly in the Dragons’ favor. The Bulldogs would be best served if they can dictate the tempo of the game, and keep the ball away from Caron and the Rams’ dangerous offense.

3. Substitute runner. Gadway will step in at running back and linebacker Friday for starter Mitchell Cushing, who will not be available against the Rams after picking up two personal fouls in last week’s 17-0 win over Brewer. If Gadway can successfully spell Thomas at running back Lawrence should still be in good shape.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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