BREWER — The tears that welled in Elijah Dutil’s eyes said everything. They were the product of a Cony High School football team that — with its junior wide receiver leading the way — gave every single thing it had, looking to hang with one of the giants of Pine Tree Conference Class B. Looking to somehow keep its season going. Looking to make sure next week consisted of even more practices, and even more football games to play.

The Rams came close. They fell just short. One drive, maybe one play, but enough to mean it was second-seeded Brewer and its unrelenting ground game moving on to the conference championship game with a 44-34 victory over the upstart and sixth-seeded Rams at Doyle Field.

“One of the best games I’ve ever played in,” Dutil said. “I’m in shock. I mean, we were going in hard, we were giving it our all. For a while there, it looked like it was going our way.”

“I couldn’t be any prouder of our effort,” coach B.L. Lippert added. “We told them after the game, pound for pound, we are not anywhere near the most talented team in this league. But the grit and courage and determination these seniors have shown, really in their first experience, a lot of them, playing high school football has been incredible.”

Cony (4-6) took its final lead when Taylor Heath (22 of 36, 370 yards, five touchdowns) lobbed a pass down the left sideline for Dutil from 33 yards out. Dutil, sensational all night, pulled the ball away from the covering back, giving the Rams the six-point cushion after converting a 2-point conversion.

The play was a go-to for the Rams all night, as Dutil hauled in one acrobatic catch after another to keep Cony close, finishing with six catches for 173 yards and four touchdowns.

“I felt like I had to give it all for my team,” he said. “I just felt I had to do something. I had to step up my game.”

Brewer (8-1) drove into Cony territory on the next drive, but saw it end fruitlessly with a Heath interception. Cony couldn’t move the chains, however, and the Witches went back to work after the punt. Trey Wood, who devastated the Rams’ front with 40 carries for 299 yards, ran for 26 yards on three carries, and Zac Duncan (11 carries, 75 yards) ran in from five yards out for a 36-34 lead after a 2-point conversion with 7:43 to play.

The Witches got to Heath for a pair of sacks on the next drive, then crushed the Cony hopes on the ensuing possession. Wood ran five times for 35 yards, and Duncan carried defenders from 15 yards out for the final score of the game with 2:11 to go.

“(Wood’s) just an unbelievable workhorse,” Brewer coach Nick Arthers said. “He’s a football kid. He loves to play the game, loves to get carries. He tells me ‘I’ll carry the ball 60 times if you want me to.’ “

An interception dashed any hopes for a miracle for Cony, which allowed Brewer’s hard-running trio of Wood, Duncan and Garrett Ireland (12 carries, 52 yards) to gain 426 yards on 63 carries — 242 on 31 in the second half.

“They’re a tough group. Some of our linebackers weigh 150 pounds against those 260-pound linemen, 240-pound running backs,” Lippert said. “They’re a really good football team, just physically can manhandle a lot of teams. I just can’t believe the will and the fight that’s inside (our) guys.”

Brewer led 22-20 at halftime after both teams exchanged last-minute touchdowns, and scored on its second drive after the break when Wood raced around the right edge for a 29-yard run, putting the Witches ahead 28-20. The Rams bounced right back, however, as Heath hit Chad Bickford (two catches, 47 yards) for 21 yards on 3rd-and-17, then lofted a pass down the left for Dutil from 34 yards out. In the game’s prettiest play, Dutil came back for the slightly underthrown ball, making a mid-air fingertips catch and tumbling to the ground just beyond the pylon.

“I’m not sure we’ve seen him play quite like that at any point in his career,” Lippert said. “I told him all week that we liked his matchup. … He looked good all week, and Taylor said ‘Why don’t we just give him a shot?’ And we did.”

Brewer romped to the Cony 22 on the next drive but Wood fumbled, giving the Rams another chance. They seized it, battling back to take the lead in the final minute of the third on Dutil’s final scoring grab.

“I think they just really love each other,” Lippert said of the rally. “And they didn’t want to be done playing high school football.”

Cony set a fast start from the opening drive. The Rams marched to the Brewer 17-yard line on the first series and made it all the way into the end zone on the second. On 2nd-and-9 from the Cony 18, Heath dropped back and threw that arc pass down the left side to Dutil, who pulled the ball away from the Brewer defensive back and raced in alone for the score after he fell down to give Cony a quick 7-0 lead with 4:27 left in the first quarter.

Brewer made it deep into Cony territory on the next series before turning it over on downs after a sack, but the Witches atoned on their following drive. Wood took a pitch on third down and rumbled in for a 13-yard score, putting Brewer ahead 8-7 after he ran in the conversion with 11:24 left in the second.

Unfazed and working from its 37, Cony answered. Heath hit Chad Bickford with a perfect lob pass down the left for 26 yards to the Brewer 10, and two plays later Dutil came back for a back-shoulder pass in the left side of the end zone to make it 14-8 with 6:28 left.

“Taylor threw the ball extremely well,” Lippert said. “I know there’s a lot of good quarterbacks in the state and (Skowhegan’s) Garrett McSweeney is really good and gets a lot of attention, it’s well-deserved, but Taylor Heath’s pretty damn good as well.”

The teams weren’t close to wrapping up the action before the break. Brewer needed 10 plays to even the score back up, doing so when Duncan plunged into the end zone on 4th-and-inches from the Cony 4 with 1:47 to go, making the score 14-14.

The final two minutes of the half were among the most emotionally-charged of the game. Cony took advantage of a botched kickoff after the touchdown, scoring with 42 seconds left when Heath found Jordan Roddy (seven catches, 109 yards) for a 5-yard score. Brewer moved the ball despite the limited time, marching from its own 40 and scoring as time ran out on a 20-yard pass from Cody Wood to Tyler Hafford — one that Cony players and coaches argued adamantly hit the turf.

The Rams’ heads had cooled by the second half, just in time for the two teams to stage one of the season’s most exciting finishes.

“I told the younger kids, if you need any role models to look to as we work out in the offseason … you look at those seniors,” Lippert said. “You emulate that, and we’re going to be all right moving forward.”