Don’t think that because only one team in the Cony-Skowhegan showdown is fighting for its playoff life, only one team has something to play for.

Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman would beg to differ.

Sure, at first glimpse, it’s Cony (2-4) that has everything at stake in tonight’s game. The Rams are the ones trying to shake off a rough start to the season and make the playoffs, and a win over Skowhegan (4-2), one of the Pine Tree Conference Class B’s highest-scoring teams, would put Cony in excellent position to make the six-team cut.

“Two pretty good offenses. Skowhegan’s throwing the ball as well as anyone in the state right now,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “They’re going to put up points, we sort of know that. We’ve got to try to minimize it as best as we can, but it adds a little pressure to us offensively as well.”

But while the Indians are all but assured a playoff berth, Friedman said the team has a chip on its shoulder. No doubt, Skowhegan can pile up the points. But when the Indians kick the ball away…

“The thing that I’ve been talking to my kids about is, we’ve still got a lot to prove,” he said. “We’ve still got to show the other teams in the league that we can play defense and shut down another team’s offense.”

It’s a fair concern. Skowhegan’s 224 points are the third-most in all of Class B, but no team over .500 has allowed more than the 192 the Indians have surrendered.

“It’s definitely been something that’s been an issue,” Friedman said. “To struggle as much as we have to stop the other team is as concerning for players as for the coaches.”

Here’s a look at the Cony-Skowhegan matchup.

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Skowhegan Area High School

Cony coach B.L. Lippert on Skowhegan: “Garrett McSweeney is perhaps the best quarterback in the state of Maine. He really throws the football well, their offensive line keeps him protected, he moves around in the pocket subtly, but very effectively. … They’ve got two or three really dynamic receivers.”

Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman on Cony: “They’re not just a good passing game. They’ve got a run game, they’ve got a screen game which works like a run game for them. They’re well-rounded, even though they tend to throw the ball like us.”

Keys for Cony:

• Move the chains. It’s a time-honored strategy against proficient quarterbacks: Keep them on the sideline, where they can’t hurt you. Cony needs to make sure it gets production out of its drives, either by scoring or, at the very least, pinning the Indians deep. Early three-and-outs are a recipe for a game of catch-up, a game the Rams won’t win.

• Fight fire with fire. Skowhegan lights up the board, but the Indians have struggled to keep others from doing the same. Cony likes to throw the ball, the Rams are good at throwing the ball, so throw it. A 50-40 win is more likely than a 20-10 one.

• No turnovers. Skowhegan doesn’t need help to score points. Turnovers are a good way to make a difficult task an impossible one.

Keys for Skowhegan:

• Up the pressure. With 18 touchdown passes this season, Cony quarterback Taylor Heath has shown a flair for throwing the football himself, but the senior has been held in check by teams that either tightly cover his receivers or get in his face. The Indians can’t let Heath sit in the pocket or his receivers find space downfield.

• Find a solution for Jordan Roddy. Cony’s playmaking receiver exploded for five touchdown catches last week against Hampden, and has 12 for the season. Stopping him has to be top priority for the Indians, either by a favorable man-to-man matchup or with bracket coverage.

• Match the intensity. Cony will know full well that a win tonight sets up a smooth path to the playoffs. The Rams will be hungry. Skowhegan doesn’t need the win as much, and if the Indians play like that’s the case, they might not get it.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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