SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan Area High School football coach Matt Friedman said there are two things you need to know about senior Owen Boardman, a two-way tackle. One, he’s tough, a throwback, an old-fashioned kind of player.

“You give him an assignment and he’s going to make sure he executes that assignment to the best of his ability. There’s no quit in him,” Friedman said.

Two, and this is the most important thing, if you take a play off, if you dog it even just a little, Boardman is going to get on you.

“No one’s ever going to question how hard Owen’s going to work in practice,” Friedman said. “He’ll step up and he’s not afraid to talk to guys who maybe are slacking off. That’s his thing, everyone’s going to work hard.”

That attitude made Boardman one of Skowhegan’s captain this season, and it helped him become one of the better two-way linemen in the Pine Tree Conference Class B division. Boardman takes the job of team captain seriously.

“I’m always trying to make our team better, and it’s kind of tough when some guys don’t want to listen. It’s hard to get your point across,” he said.

A three-year starter at defensive tackle, Boardman’s primary job is to take on blockers, freeing up linebackers to make tackles. Boardman is Skowhegan’s three technique tackle, meaning he’ll line up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard.

“His job is to occupy the guard and if possible, the tackle. He’s inviting double teams, and then his job is to not get moved off the line of scrimmage,” Friedman said.

Boardman’s effort in the trenches has helped Skowhegan linebackers rank among the conference’s top tacklers in each of the last two seasons. In 2014, it was Gus Benson, who led the PTC B with 111 tackles. Last year, Brayden Fitzmaurice had 70 tackles, seventh-best in the league. Boardman’s strength, Friedman said, is his strength.

“The thing we always talk about with Owen, if he gets his hand on you, you’re not getting away. He’s got the grip of steel,” Friedman said.

Boardman is a solid tackler in his own right, making 35 stops last year, including a sack. Boardman described his knowledge as his greatest strength as a defensive lineman. By now, he’s played every team in the league at least twice, and nobody is going to surprise him.

“I’ve been there for three years now, and it definitely helps me. Most of the teams we play, we’ve played them a lot, and I’ve seen how they run thing,” Boardman said.

The 5-foot-11, 250-pound Boardman got his first taste of varsity football as a freshman, when he saw some time at the end of Skowhegan’s regional semifinal loss to Brunswick. The following season, the sophomore Boardman was named a starter on the defensive line. The learning curve was quick.

“In practice, it’s always a battle. There’s always somebody that wants to take your spot,” Boardman said. “I knew I’d have to work hard, but it helped me the year before, getting in that last playoff game against Brunswick… It was kind of scary at first. It was pretty tough, actually, trying to figure out where I was supposed to go.”

Boardman remembered watching film of Skowhegan’s game against Messalonskee (a 13-7 loss) that sophomore year. It wasn’t pretty.

“I got blown off the ball a lot,” Boardman said.

He learned from the failures and continued to improve.

“As a sophomore, he wanted to use his shoulders more and throw his body into guys. I think he’s really learned how to use his arms and how to use leverage to help himself,” Friedman said.

In last Friday’s season-opening 33-32 win at Lawrence, Boardman’s big moment came late in the third quarter. Skowhegan had just extended its lead to 33-26 on a 15-yard Garrett McSweeney touchdown pass to Russell Bradley. Lawrence took over on its own 42, and a 15-yard run by fullback Tyler Larouche moved the Bulldogs into Skowhegan territory. A 9-yard run to the left by Devon Webb set the Bulldogs up with second and short. After an incomplete pass on second down, Lawrence tried to move the chains by running up the middle twice in a row. Each time, Boardman helped stuff the play, and the Indians took over on downs, maintaining their touchdown lead. It was a good moment, but Boardman knows he and his teammates can play much better.

“Last week when we played Lawrence, it was trying to take up as many blocks as we could and try and keep those guys off the linebackers. (Lawrence) did a good job leaving us and getting to the backers, so hopefully in the weeks to come we’ll narrow that down and take up as many blocks as we can and free up the linebackers,” Boardman said.

Boardman refuses to dwell on the way the 2015 season ended. In the conference semifinals, Skowhegan held a touchdown lead on Brewer with 8:04 left in the game. The Witches took the ball on their own 43 yard line, and proceeded to make the most methodical drive of the season, using 19 plays and nearly all the remaining time to march those 57 yards to the winning score. Brewer converted three third downs and two fourth downs on the seven minute, 53 second drive. Boardman said while he uses the game as motivation, he doesn’t focus on it, either.

“That was probably the toughest game I’ve played in, the whole way through. We can do great things, but we still need work,” Boardman said. “We did stop them on a lot of plays, but it’s a game of inches. They made some good conversions. We look back, and yeah, we could’ve changed things, but we put up a good fight. You can always look back and change things in your head, but in the heat of the moment, you do what you’ve got to do, and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

Offensively, Boardman is in his second season as Skowhegan’s starting right tackle. Last year, he was a key blocker for an offense that averaged 28 points per game last season. On Friday at Lawrence, Boardman helped ensure McSweeney was never touched unless he ran with the ball.

“He’s been solid for two years (at right tackle). We thought about moving him to left tackle this year, but we decided the continuity was more important,” Friedman said.

Boardman estimated he’s played football for around 12 years. He started as a running back in youth games, before growing and moving to the line. Playing the game is secondary to building relationships with his teammates and coaches, Boardman said.

“It’s the guys next to you that really count. Everybody’s about winning, but if you’re not having fun, if you’re not with the guys you care about, then really, winning’s not that good. I think that’s a pretty big deal, especially for me,” Boardman said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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