FARMINGTON — It was a tough throw, a back shoulder fade that Ryan Pratt completed to Nate Pratt-Holt in the final minute of last Friday’s Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinal. Pratt’s on-the-run throw to Pratt-Holt capped Mt. Blue’s 20-point comeback and gave the Cougars an improbable 35-34 win over Cony.

It was a play they’ll be talking about in the Farmington area for years. Jim Aylward, Mt. Blue’s head football coach, kind of expected it.

“Ryan’s doing a good job. He knows the offense. He’s capable of running all our offense. When the moment’s big, he seems to shine the most,” Aylward said. “I thought he played especially well in the second half last Friday night.”

A senior, Pratt has quietly had a strong season for the Cougars (6-3), who will play at top-seed Brunswick (7-1) in the conference semifinals Friday night. It seems as if Pratt was destined since birth to be a Mt. Blue football player. The Cougars play on Ray Caldwell Field, named for the former Mt. Blue coach — and also Pratt’s grandfather.

Pratt and Caldwell will usually talk about football a few times each week.

“It means a lot, to play on the field that’s dedicated to him, for what’s he done for the school when he coached. He likes to know what we’ve done during the week and break down the game,” Pratt said. “He just likes seeing me play hard every week.”

In the regular season, Pratt threw for 955 yards and nine touchdowns. He added 160 yards and two more touchdown passes against Cony on Friday. Along with the game-winning pass to Pratt-Holt, Pratt threw a first half touchdown pass to Caleb Hall.

At 5-foot-7, Pratt is not a traditional pocket passer. Aylward and offensive coordinator Kevin Averill have made sure the offense fits Pratt’s skill set. That means Pratt is often rolling out of the pocket.

“I run waggle a lot more. I throw on the run, which I like to do,” Pratt said.

“With Ryan, the big thing is, we’ve got to protect him. We’ve got to give him lanes to throw and vision,” Aylward said. “When we do, he’s real fine. The biggest problems we’ve had this year haven’t been with Ryan, it’s giving him time and a lane to throw to.”

Pratt took over at quarterback after older brother Andrew graduated. While Andrew Pratt ran the Cougar Gun offense favored by former head coach Gary Parlin, he was able to offer some advice to his little brother, especially on taking leadership in the huddle, Ryan Pratt said.

As a junior, Ryan Pratt threw for 961 yards and eight touchdowns. Aylward said he hasn’t seen a “he’s-figured-it-out moment” from Ryan Pratt this season, because he didn’t need to.

“I think he was pretty solid last year. I think he was ready to take over. This year’s just been a continuation of that,” Aylward said.

Pratt said he thinks he’s thrown the ball better this season, and a year of experience helped him figure out what defenses were trying to do against the Cougars. For example, in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game against Cony, Pratt knew a hook and ladder play was going to work when he saw the Rams’ formation. The play, a pass to Pratt-Holt, who then completed a lateral to Christian Whitney, picked up 23 yards. Mt. Blue scored on the next play, a 35-yard run by Pratt-Holt, which cut Cony’s lead to 34-29 with just over seven minutes to play.

“They were in man-to-man. You could see that was going to be open,” Pratt said of the successful hook and ladder. “I’ve been throwing the ball a lot better this year. I feel like I know what defenses are going to be. I know coach’s (Aylward) offense better this year.”

Like is grandfather, Pratt’s mother, Cyndi Pratt, also is a coach, having coached softball and field hockey at the University of Maine at Farmington. It’s no surprise that Aylward feels Pratt’s biggest asset as a quarterback is his leadership.

“He’s a very humble kid. He’s a quiet leader,” Aylward said. “The kids look to him and respect him. We think he’s a good leader for us.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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</URL>Twitter: <URL destination=””>@TLazarczykMTM

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