SKOWHEGAN — Garrett McSweeney threw for 303 yards and Hunter Washburn and Jakob Murray ran for two touchdowns apiece, as Skowhegan rolled to a 40-12 Pine Tree Conference Class B victory over Gardiner on Friday night.

And that was the long and the short of it. Literally.

McSweeney’s gaudy passing statistics coupled with a bruising running game inside the red zone helped the Indians (2-0) remain unbeaten on the season.

“We were ready to play from the get-go,” McSweeney said. “I just try and get guys the ball and let them run. I don’t need to throw it deep all the time. We have good athletes out there.”

Skowhegan got off to a quick start in this one. McSweeney opened the scoring just over four minutes into the first quarter, hitting John Bell for a 13-yard touchdown on an eight-play drive highlighted by Bell’s catch and run for a gain of 25 yards two plays earlier. On the Indians’ next play from scrimmage — following a drive that produced negative yardage for the Tigers (0-2) — McSweeney went to the air again for a 47-yard completion to Russell Bradley.

Washburn capped that quick march with a 2-yard touchdown run.

“Our line is very versatile,” McSweeney said. “Running the football really opens things up in the passing game. It brings backers in, it brings them up so we’re able to throw the ball and have tempo and keep things going.”

It was the theme of the first half, Skowhegan frustrating the Gardiner defense with its varied play calling as it utilized both aerial assault and smashmouth running.

“We try to be very multiple in our options,” Skowhegan head coach Matt Friedman said of the team’s no-huddle spread offense. “But we also try to keep everything simple for the kids so that we can go fast.”

It worked, especially against a young and inexperienced Tigers secondary.

“We’re shuffling a lot people around, and we have kids out there that haven’t played a lot of safety,” Gardiner coach Joe White said. “They’re trying to play against this empty set, spread set, with the McSweeney kid back there firing darts. It’s like he’s shooting ducks in pond. He’s got time, he can see it, he’s slinging it, and we just aren’t able to adjust.”

Skowhegan added two more scores late in the first half.

McSweeney hit Sean Savage for a pair of big gains — one of 15 yards and the next for 42 yards — to set up a first and goal from the Gardiner 2-yard line. Washburn punched that one it to make it 19-0 midway through the second quarter.

A promising Tigers drive stalled with just over three minutes remaining in the half, and the Indians turned that into a lightning-quick, three-play drive with McSweeney completing passes of 4, 7 and then 50 yards, the last of which dropped into the hands of Bell as McSweeney took a hard hit upon release. Bell scored easily for a 26-0 lead.

The Tigers, who got second half touchdowns from running backs Cody Spencer (44 yards) and Cam Michaud (5 yards), had a chance to get close just before the intermission. Their 10-play drive to the Skowhegan 2-yard line, though, ended when Nate Malinowski was stopped 3 yards short of the end zone on fourth down.

Gardiner came out in the second half and played much better defense, but an interception and a long punt return from Skowhegan’s Tyler Scott deep into Tiger territory erased any hope of a comeback.

Both Murray touchdowns for the Indians came in the second half to put the game away.

“I think if we’d have been able to punch one in when we were on the goal line in the first half, we might have been able to come out and carry a little momentum into the second half,” White said. “But it’s a credit to our guys coming out and not backing off. We started to make some plays.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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