Lawrence and Skowhegan are two of the oldest rivals in the Pine Tree Conference, but Friday’s season opener is the first time they’ll play a football game against each other since 2012. With an odd number of teams in each of the Class B conferences the last two seasons, the leagues were forced to play crossover games. That scheduling quirk meant Lawrence and Skowhegan, separated by just 17 miles, didn’t play each other.

Realignment eliminated the Class B crossover scheduling this season, and that’s great news for fans of the storied programs. The Indians and the Bulldogs renew their Somerset County rivalry on Friday night at Skowhegan’s Clark Field.

Lawrence is coming off a season in which it reached the conference championship game. Skowhegan finished the 2014 season with a pair of strong wins over Gardiner and Mt. Blue, but just missed the playoffs.

Here’s a look at the Lawrence-Skowhegan matchup:

Lawrence players to watch: TE/WR/CB Seth Powers, TB/LB Mitchell Cushing, TB/CB Walker Thomas, G/LB Kyle Robinson, T/DE Robert Zahoransky.

Skowhegan players to watch: TE/DE Sam Baker, G Oakley Fortin, TB/S Kam Doucette, QB Garrett McSweeney, WR/S Spencer Salley.

Lawrence coach John Hersom: “It does make it a challenge when you haven’t played, or seen a team play, in a couple of years. We’re trying to get to know some of their personnel and how they look. They seem to execute quite well in their offense. We need to line up correctly and understand our coverages.”

Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman: “Lawrence has such a great tradition. You can never predict that they’re going to be down. You always have to expect that they’re going to be ready to go. Watching them on film, it looks like they’re in midseason form already, so we have to be ready to play.”

Three keys for Lawrence:

1. Establish the run: The Bulldogs like to be balanced offensively but it all starts with the run. Lawrence needs to put together long drives and that’s something it struggled to do in the preseason.

“We had a difficult preseason sustaining drives,” Hersom said.

2. Avoid the big play: Skowhegan’s spread offense is strong and the Bulldogs have to be ready to defend a number of skill players.

“We feel we’re athletic enough with our defensive backs and linebackers to hold up,” Hersom said.

3. Control the lines of scrimmage: Lawrence was hit hardest by graduation on the line. Zahoransky is a returning starter and Robinson is a talented athlete, although new to the guard position. The Bulldogs’ line is inexperienced and will have to get up to speed in a hurry to compete in a tough conference.

Three keys for Skowhegan:

1. Build on the end of last season: There’s some new faces, as there is with every new season, but Skowhegan needs to use the success of the final weeks of 2014 as a springboard to 2015. McSweeney looked sharp in the final two games last season, throwing six touchdown passes with no interceptions. Four of those touchdowns were thrown to Salley and Baker, who are also back this season.

2. Utilize team speed: In the preseason, Friedman said speed is a team strength, and it will be important against Lawrence.

“In practice, we fly around,” Friedman said. “Even though we’re bigger, we’re still smaller than most teams we see.”

3. Do your job: That’s Skowhegan’s motto this season, Friedman said.

“Everybody needs to do their own job, to execute their own assignment. If we do that, and trust that the other 10 players on the field are going to do the same thing, then I think we’re going to be OK,” Friedman said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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