GARDINER — One of the country’s oldest high school football rivalries is set to add another installment Friday night at Hoch Field.

Gardiner (2-5 Pine Tree Conference B) will host Cony (5-2 PTC B) in a series that began in the late 1800s and both coaches are all well aware of what to expect.

“It sounds cliche but you really throw the records out the window,” Cony head coach Robby Vachon said. “We know Gardiner’s going to play hard and our kids are going to be prepared for the challenge of playing at Hoch Field, which is a really tough place to play.”

Vachon was a three-year starter for the Rams in the mid 1980s, while fellow assistant coaches B.L. Lippert, Rusty Hopkins and Devin Saban also played for Cony.

During Vachon’s time playing for the Rams there were a few occasions when he lined up against his coaching counterpart Friday night, Matt Burgess — a former standout linebacker for the Tigers.

“It’s kind of neat,” Burgess said. “I told the kids I’ve got the utmost respect for Robby because we competed against each other and I think he’s done a heck of a job in Augusta.”

Both coaches are doing their best to prepare their team for what to expect, but those who have played in the game before will certainly have an advantage.

“Unless you play in it or coach in it you can’t really appreciate it,” Vachon said. “Some of our kids understand what it means but others, they’ll have to wait until Friday to really see what the experience is like.”

No matter what it will be the final game of the season for the Tigers, and they are treating it as such.

“It takes on a whole different meaning at the end of the season when there’s nothing left to lose,” Burgess said. “Our kids have to play like they have nothing left to lose because they don’t.

“It’s one of the three oldest rivalries in the country — depending on who you ask. It’s been around through war time and peace time. There are generations of people who have played in it.”

•••

Cony will be playing for more than just pride when it takes the field Friday night, as it will be playing for playoff seeding as well.

The playoff race in PTC B has been a tight one all season and fittingly enough there will be plenty on the line for nearly the entire division.

Brunswick (6-1) can clinch the top spot with a win Friday over Kennebunk (2-5), while Skowhegan (3-4) will need a win and a Brewer (3-4) loss to leap frog the Witches for the final spot in PTC B.

From there, just about all the seeds — including a first-round bye for the No. 2 spot — will be up for grabs.

The major linchpin will be the showdown between Lawrence (5-2) and one of the conference’s hottest teams, Messalonskee (4-3). If the Bulldogs win and a couple other games go their way — namely wins from Mt. Blue and Westbrook — Lawrence could finish as high as No. 2, however, a loss could mean it could finish as low as No. 5 in the standings.

The bottom line is for most teams their fate is firstly in their own hands, but securing a home playoff game in PTC B may not entirely be in their own control.

“We’ve got to wait and see how Friday plays out,” Vachon said. “We’ve got to take care of ourselves first and foremost and see what happens this weekend.

“It’s going to be a crapshoot, that’s for sure.”

•••

Winthrop/Monmouth senior Tyler Gosselin called the move by the Boothbay coaching staff Friday night “pure class.”

The Seahawks coaches ditched their usual sideline attire for Friday night’s contest in favor of blue ‘Just Smile’ T-shirts in honor of Kelsey Stoneton, the Winthrop High School student and daughter of school athletic director Joel Stoneton who passed away in August.

“That really hit home with me because me and Kelsey, we were really good friends,” Ramblers senior running back Zack Phinney said. “I saw them wearing those and it was just pure class.”

Boothbay head coach Bryan Dionne said he had gotten to know Stoneton when he has coaching the Ramblers football team, and that he wanted to show support for his friend and the community.

“I got to know coach Stoneton at the Lobster Bowl a couple years back and he asked me to be on his staff,” Dionne said. “We became friends in that process and I really feel for the man. He’s a role model for all of us, and I got to meet his daughter and she was a really special girl. She was special to him, their family and obviously the whole community. It was a big loss for them so we wanted to show our support.”

•••

It still reads ‘Traip’ on the front of the jerseys of the Kittery school’s football team.

Its mascot is still the Rangers and even if the record books do not show it, the team knows what its record should be this season.

“We’re the same old team,” Traip coach Ron Ross said. “You can wipe the wins out of the record book but we know we won three games.”

The Rangers visited Oak Hill Saturday afternoon in their first game since self-reporting the use of an ineligible player — one that only appeared on special teams — and Ross said his team is still the same as it was before that happened.

Traip (0-6) still has an outside shot at making the playoffs in the Campbell Conference but will have to beat Dirigo (5-1) at home Saturday in order to do so.

“We’ve got a big task ahead of us next week but it’s due to no fault of anybody on this team or this sideline,” Ross said. “You read some of the comments and you just wonder where people grew up. You read them, you hear them and you see the kind of world we’re living in today.

“It’s not the kid’s fault, it’s not the coach’s fault, it’s not the AD’s fault — it’s a mistake. To bash people because of a mistake you know nothing about it’s hard and it’s hard on the kid that was affected by it. He had no idea but he reads all that stuff. We just try to get by it and our three wins are our three wins. That’s the way it is.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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