AUGUSTA — After a rough debut this season, the Cony High School football team seemed to rectify a lot of those issues in a win over Messalonskee (1-1) last week.

Another victory Friday night over perennial power Brunswick (2-0) would go a long way toward the Rams (1-1) making a run at a fourth straight postseason appearance. That win will not come easy, though.

Last fall Cony made a good run at knocking off the eventual Pine Tree Conference B champs during the regular season and only trailed 28-27 early in the third quarter. Turnovers and the Dragons’ potent running game ultimately did the Rams in, though, as Brunswick went on to a 52-27 win at Alumni Field.

This season’s version of the Dragons does not quite have the same firepower but with starting full back/linebacker Will Bessey back, Brunswick remains a strong contender for the conference crown. Fortunately for Cony, it got more good news last week than just a victory as it also marked the return of Reid Shostak from injury.

Shostak was forced to play with a bulky brace over his left elbow but showed little lasting effects from the injury. Here is a look at how Shostak, Bessey and the two teams match up:

Players to watch: Brunswick — FB/LB Will Bessey, T/DT Josh Goddard, T/DT Logan Ouellette, QB/S Thomas Hanson, WR/DB Alan Molnar. Cony — WR/CB Anthony Brunelle, RB/OLB Joel Bennett, QB/WR Taylor Heath, DE Dylan Tudeen, DE Benaiah Willhoite, RB/LB Reid Shostak.

Cony Coach B.L. Lippert on Brunswick: “They’re a similar team to what they have been in the past few years. They’re a physical offensive attack and a high-pressure defense and (they have) really good athletes across the board. They’re well-coached. Coach Cooper, I think, is one of the most underrated coaches across the state. They come to play every Friday night and we have to match their level of intensity.”

Brunswick coach Dan Cooper on last week’s win over Lawrence: “We’ve got a lot of character. Lawrence played us tough, they were physical and we didn’t panic. We were game for a fourth-quarter battle and that’s exactly what the kids did.”

Three keys for Cony:

1. Slow up Bessey. The Dragons’ senior is one of the best players in the conference and can hurt opposing teams in a number of ways. Jesse Devereaux and Hunter Garrett are quality running backs, but Bessey — who had 187 yards and two touchdowns when the two teams met last fall — has the ability to be a gamechanger if allotted the opportunity to do so. The Rams will need to limit his effectiveness on both sides of the ball to get a win.

2. Offensive execution. In a Week 1 loss at Mt. Blue, the Rams put their defense in a bad spot with too many turnovers and penalties. Cony was far better in that department last week in a win over Messalonskee and will need to have a similar performance to knock off the Dragons.

3. Beware of the deep ball. Make no mistake, Brunswick will look to run the football often. That being said, Hanson is capable of throwing the deep ball and the Dragons do have a pair of receiving options in Molnar and Corban Teel with good size. The Rams will need to be aware of where both are on the field and be mindful of play-action and screen pass situations.

Three keys for Brunswick

1. Under pressure. Last week in a win over Messalonskee, Heath completed 25-of-42 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns. Brunswick is going to need to find a way to get pressure on Heath to take him out of his comfort zone or — as he showed against the Eagles — he can pick teams apart.

2. Time of possession. The Dragons chewed up 507 total yards in last year’s win over Cony but did not pull away until the second half. Part of that was a result of untimely turnovers by the Rams but Brunswick’s ability to control the clock also played a part. The longer the Dragons can keep Cony’s defense on the field, the better off they will be.

3. Don’t Reid into it. Shostak may be coming off an injury but do not take him lightly. Coming into the season he was routinely put in the same breath as Bessey when talking about the conference’s best players. While the brace he wears over his left elbow may be cumbersome, he more than showed last week against Messalonskee that he can be a difference maker on both sides of the ball.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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