OAKLAND — To watch the Messalonskee High School football team go up and down the field most of this season, grinding out drives and scoring quickly, one can forget that this was an offense that looked completely lost not too long ago.

“We didn’t look like a team at all,” Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop said about his team’s inability to click in a preseason blowout loss to Winslow. “I knew that before the ball was even snapped.”

That game can draw chuckles from the Eagles now, because it counted as nothing more than an important lesson, and is now an outlier rather than the season’s normal effort. At 4-2, Messalonskee sits in second place in the Pine Tree Conference Class B standings, a point and a half behind top-ranked Lawrence.

“We knew we had some work to do. Everyone put their heads down, and we did what we needed to do,” said Matt Trembly, the senior right tackle and only returning starter to Messalonskee’s line from 2016.

In last week’s 36-33 win over Brewer, Messalonskee ran for 392 yards, and that success on the ground opened up the 58-yard go-ahead touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter. Fullback Austin Pelletier gained 256 yards and two touchdowns, this coming three weeks after the Eagles line helped Pelletier run for 341 yards and seven touchdowns against Skowhegan. Backs Alden Balboni and Tyler Lewis also have had 100-yard games behind the Messalonskee line. Questions about experience and inability have been answered. The Eagles enter Friday’s game against Cony averaging just under 34 points per game. In Pine Tree Conference Class B, only Skowhegan has scored more points.

“It’s a process. Everyone’s coming out here and putting in as much work as we can. I think we’ve come a long way since the first game,” senior left tackle Colin Kinney said.

Injuries have forced Bishop and his staff to continue to mix and match on the line. Junior Colton Chavarie, a backup running back, played left tackle last week against Brewer. This week against Cony, Chavarie will play center.

“Our JV center, DJ Lorrain, did a heck of a job when he came in in the fourth quarter last week. He did a fantastic job, but we want him to get some more seasoning,” Bishop said.

The lone returning starter on Messalonskee’s offensive line, Trembly is described by Bishop as a selfless, quiet leader.

“Matt will do anything you ask. He works very hard. During preseason, he would leave practice at nine in the morning and go put trusses on with his dad, then come back for the night session,” Bishop said. “He’s just a tough kid. He’s a throwback. He’s a worker.”

Trembly said as training camp began, he wasn’t concerned with whether the Eagles would be able to open holes for the talented group of backs.

“We had a lot of big kids coming up through,” Trembly said. “They have the right mindset to get the job done.”

Then there was the awful exhibition game at Winslow, followed by what Kinney called “the worst week of practice” in the days before the regular season opener at Brunswick.

“We had to stop practice early a few times and have a discussion, a senior discussion before the game on Thursday,” Kinney said, adding that what was said will stay with the team members. “What we said got to us. It was definitely inspirational and pulled some emotions out of us.”

The Eagles won at Brunswick, 23-0, beating the Dragons for the first time since 2014. Success comes down to time spent in practice working on blocking assignments, Typically, the Eagles will run a play 40 times in practice in the week leading up to a game, Bishop said. Whether it’s at full speed or a walk through, any play called in a game has been practiced dozens of times.

“It’s just a lot of repetition and a lot of walking through things,” Bishop said. “It’s a lot of work for those kids, but it pays off. We move the ball.”

Added Trembly: “We run plays for a long time. Coach gets after us if we don’t know our jobs.”

The blocking schemes used in Messalonskee’s wing-T offense are old school, but effective. Kinney tapped his left arm in explaining the fin and shoulder blocking technique the Eagles use.

“We do a lot of prioritizing, who’s going to make the tackle at that time? I’m not going to hit the guy right in front of me if he’s not going to make the tackle. I’ll typically hit a (line) backer if he’s the guy in my gap,” Kinney said. “It gets the job done. We’ve seen plenty of points on the board so far.”

Reaping the benefits of Messalonskee’s rebuilt, and rebuilt again, line are those backs. Pelletier entered the season as the top returning rusher in the conference, and Lewis and Balboni quickly established themselves as breakaway threats. The Eagles linemen know they don’t need to make a gaping hole. Messalonskee’s veteran backs are adept at reading where the hole is, and taking it.

“All you have to fit through is your waist and your shoulder pads. Any good back will tell you that. You lower your shoulders and run north and south, and that’s what we teach them,” Bishop said.

Added Kinney: “We have great backs. We knew coming into the season they were going to be great. They just need a sliver of a hole, and if we can get it for them, we can put six on the board.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.