Except for the Little Ten Conference, the high school football playoffs start statewide this weekend. In central Maine, that means a pair of Pine Tree Conference Class B rematches, and a rematch of last season’s Big Ten Conference championship game.

Here is a look at playoff games involving area teams:

• The last time Messalonskee (4-4) and Skowhegan (5-3) played each other, the difference was turnovers. Messalonskee coughed the ball up four times in the fourth quarter and Skowhegan capitalized, scoring two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game to pull out a 33-29 win. They meet again Friday night in Skowhegan, with the winner earning a shot at top-seeded and undefeated Brunswick next week.

That loss to Skowhegan on Oct. 7 began a regular season-ending three game losing skid for the Eagles. Turnovers were a factor in each game.

“The last three, really, we’ve had too many turnovers to be consistent,” Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop said. “Our kids have bounced back well this week at practice.”

The Eagles ran for 310 yards against Skowhegan in the first game, and containing the run has been a constant struggle for the Indians this season.

“They present the same challenges we’ve faced all year, stopping good running teams,” Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman said.

Austin Pelletier (1,114 yards, 20 touchdowns), Colby Dexter (734 yards, 13 TDs) and Tyler Lewis (525 yards, four TDs) lead Messalonskee’s ground game. As they did last week at Lawrence, the Eagles will have freshman Deklan Thurston at quarterback in place on injured Cam Goff.

“As the years go on, he’ll get better and better. He does what we ask him,” Bishop said. “We’ll try to shorten the game by running the ball.”

Last week in the rain at Mt. Blue, Skowhegan never found a rhythm to its passing game. That game aside, Skowhegan still has the top passing offense in the conference, led by quarterback Garrett McSweeney, who threw for 1,819 yards and 21 touchdowns in the regular season. The Indians receivers are led by Jon Bell (592 yards, eight TDs) and Cam Barnes (418 yards, five TDs). McSweeney also leads the Indians in rushing, with 337 yards and four touchdowns.

• Other than Brunswick, Lawrence is the hottest team in the PTC B. The Bulldogs (6-2) won six consecutive games to earn the three seed in the playoffs. They will host No. 6 Cony (3-5) in a rematch of a midseason game won by Lawrence, 36-12.

“We’ve got a good amount of confidence, but we’re being mature about it,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said.

Hersom said Cony has improved in the month since the teams played in late September. Quarterback Taylor Heath threw for 1,581 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, with Jordan Roddy (861 yards, 14 TDs) the top receiver in the league. Elijah Dutil and Anthony Sousa are also receiving threats for the Rams.

“They’ve gotten a lot better. They’ve got some different things they’ve added, getting Roddy the ball in different ways, and they’ve got some other athletes they can get the ball.”

Lawrence’s Gunner McAllister was the top defensive back in the conference in the regular season, grabbing nine interceptions, including three against Cony. McAllister also leads the Bulldogs in rushing, with 654 yards and seven touchdowns, and also is a breakaway threat returning kicks and punts. Hersom said the Bulldogs will need to continue to be balanced offensively to move the ball against Cony. Quarterback Braden Ballard has nine touchdown passes.

“Defensively, they seem to be a lot more stingy against the run,” Hersom said. “We’ve developed some depth. We feel we’ve got that going on in our practice. Kids are working hard and challenging each other.”

Cony coach B.L. Lippert said enough time has passed that the teams that met in September aren’t the same ones meeting in late October.

“We’ve changed a lot on offense,” he said. “They’re a little bit different defensively, and we’re a much more diverse offense than we were in Week 4. You can watch the film, for sure, but you really need to look at what they’re doing lately to forecast what they’re going to be doing offensively and defensively for this playoff game.”

• Winslow’s quest for a third consecutive Class C state title begins against one of the teams it beat on the way to the Gold Ball last season, Old Town, in a rematch of the 2015 Big Ten Conference championship game. Winslow finished tied with Madison and Mt. Desert Island at 7-1, and earned the three seed as the result of Crabtree point standings. Old Town (4-4) lost two straight games to end the regular season, but held onto the six seed.

Old Town doesn’t have the explosive offense it had last season, but the Coyotes still have running back TJ Crawford, who is among the league leaders in scoring. Crawford runs behind a big line, led by Randy Webber and Eric Lyford.

“He’s been a game-breaker. He’s been a real solid performer for the last two years,” Winslow coach Mike Siviski said of Crawford. “They can throw at times. Last week, they gave a lot of formations to MDI. They can present problems for you.”

The Black Raiders have a lot of talented skill players, led by tailback Nate St. Amand (17 touchdowns) and fullback Kenny Rickard (13 TDs). Dylan Hutchinson is the top target of quarterback Ryan Gagnon.

Winslow led the conference in scoring (48.3 ppg) and was second in points given up (11.9 ppg). The Black Raiders have allowed just 14 points in the last three games combined.

“We just want to go in there and play Raider football. We have a lot of seniors who could be playing their last home game, so that will be a big thing for them,” Siviski said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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