The numbers don’t seem to add up.

The Cony football team dropped to 1-4 — its fourth consecutive defeat — after a 36-20 loss to Brewer last Friday. The loss, coupled with other action in the league, dropped the Rams to seventh place in Pine Tree Conference Class B Crabtree points.

And yet, the season isn’t over — not by a longshot. The road behind the Rams was rough, but the road ahead of them is far smoother — and given the way the standings are shaking out, the hill to climb is flattening out at just the right time.

“It might seem odd to be talking about playoffs at 1-4,” coach B.L. Lippert said, “but I think, given what’s left on our schedule, not only are these teams that, outside of Skowhegan, haven’t won a ton of games, they’re teams that we think we match up with better.”

It’s not too late for the Rams to take advantage of a softening slate. As things stand now, they’re one spot out of the playoffs in the PTC B, which sends six teams to the postseason. They trail Hampden Academy (2-3) for sixth and will host the Broncos on Friday at Alumni Field. Their following games are a tough matchup with high-scoring Skowhegan (3-2) and a finale with 1-4 Gardiner, while Hampden will have to face undefeated Brewer (5-0) in its final game of the season. Mt. Blue, tied with Cony at 1-4, faces a brutal final two games against powerhouse Brunswick — which hasn’t so much as been challenged yet — and Skowhegan.

So it boils down to this: Cony has a good chance at winning two of its last three, which could give it the sixth and final playoff spot via tiebreaker over Hampden if the Broncos later lose to a Brewer team that could very well be fighting for a first-round bye. Shake off that popsicle headache and you see that Cony has much more than a fighting chance at postseason play.

If it can beat Hampden, that is. But even on paper, Lippert likes his team’s chances from a strategic standpoint.

“We’ve faced five run-heavy teams and now Hampden’s a spread team,” he said. “It’s stuff that we’re maybe a little more accustomed to defending. Teams that are big and physical that run power right, throw counter trap at us, we’ve struggled with a little bit. It’s no secret.

“But I think we match up a little bit better from a schematic standpoint than we did against Brunswick or Brewer. That alone gives us a little break mentally from having those battering ram teams.”

Messalonskee (46-14), Brunswick (58-14) and Lawrence (36-12) pummeled and shredded the Cony front seven, but against Brewer, which sports a bruising running back in Trey Wood and a formidable offensive line, Lippert said his team turned a corner.

“I was impressed with our physicality. That team has a lot of size,” he said. “We didn’t play particularly well against Lawrence, we played really poorly down in Brunswick, so it’s been a while since we played complementary football. … I fully believe that we left that (game) feeling a little better than we have the last two weeks, especially considering the opponent that we played.”

The uptick will have to continue, but if it does, it’s not too late for Cony to salvage something far bigger than a moral victory.

“Hopefully we can pick up two wins in our last three and have a shot to get in,” Lippert said. “That’s been the goal all season, to get in the playoffs. You lose 19 seniors of the caliber we did, we knew we’d be a little light on experience. We’ve gained some in the first five weeks, and we’ll hopefully see how that effects us in a positive way.”

• • •

Messalonskee didn’t lose focus after its loss to Brunswick. Coach Brad Bishop didn’t let it.

The Eagles were coming off of their first defeat of the season, and from the first practice of the week their coach had an order. No shirts, no shells. Full pads, every day.

It wasn’t punishment. Just a message.

“I just wanted to keep them focused and realize that football’s a game of hard work,” Bishop said. “The game itself is tough enough and sometimes I believe if you go out in shorts and T-shirts all the time, they get a little lackadaisical.”

The message was well-received. Messalonskee routed Nokomis, 63-28, improving to 4-1 and keeping pace in the PTC B race. Contests against losing teams can be trap games for those in a playoff chase. Bishop made sure his team didn’t overlook the 0-5 Warriors, but he also said he never had to worry about that.

“Our kids were focused … and they reacted well to everything,” he said. “They’re very hard workers. We were well-prepared for the game.”

No victory can be overlooked for a team in Messalonskee’s position. The Eagles stand alone in third, only a game behind Brewer and Brunswick for a first-round bye come playoff time. The Eagles will have chances to control their own destiny and lock up a bye, but only because they’ll play the teams they’re competing with — Skowhegan, Brewer and finally Lawrence.

“We’re probably in the playoffs with four wins, but we’d like a little better seeding, obviously,” Bishop said. “We don’t talk much about the opponent during the week. We talk about what can we do to get better during practice. That’s how we control things.”

• • •

The state’s longest winning streak came to an end Friday night. Not that Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette was in much of a reflective mood.

“No, it’s game to game for us,” he said. “We don’t talk about streaks, we don’t talk about any of that.”

It was an impressive run — 24 games, a span including state championship victories — and it needed an instant classic to be cut down. In fact, Doucette was more encouraged by how his team played in the 29-22 loss to undefeated Winthrop/Monmouth and what it means for the Raiders going forward than anything they’d accomplished in the two dozen weeks prior.

“I think we played to the end. Our kids didn’t quit,” said Doucette, whose team trailed at halftime but rallied back to take a 22-15 lead in the fourth quarter before Winthrop/Monmouth rallied back. “Even at the end, we had an opportunity to get the ball back with under a minute (left). We found out that we can handle adversity.”

The loss dropped Oak Hill into a two-way tie with Lisbon — whom the Raiders play this weekend — while the game showed how closely matched the teams atop the Campbell Conference Class D are.

“Our conference is pretty diverse this year,” Doucette said. “I think any week, anyone can be beaten. And I think it was on display here tonight.”

• • •

The aforementioned Messalonskee-Skowhegan and Oak Hill-Lisbon matchups will have drastic playoff implications, but some other games outside the area will be just as big, if not bigger.

Messalonskee’s chief rivals, Brunswick and Brewer, put their 5-0 records and first place in the PTC B on the line in Friday night’s clash in Brunswick. Class D’s Little Ten Conference has three 5-0 teams, and two of them meet this weekend with Dexter hosting Maine Central Institute Saturday afternoon.

Aside from the undefeated matchups, 5-0 Madison/Carrabec travels to face 4-1 Mt. Desert Island in a crucial Big Ten Conference Class C game Friday night. T

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifant


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