With two weeks left in the regular season, Lawrence is in first place in the Pine Tree Conference Class B division. Nobody would describe the Bulldogs’ grip on the top spot as tight, however.

The top four teams in the conference are separated by just 10 points in the Heal Point standings, making Class B North the tightest playoff race in the state. With a win over Lawrence (4-2) this week, No. 4 Skowhegan (3-3) can put itself in the mix for a first round bye.

Lawrence vs. Skowhegan is one of the oldest rivalries in the PTC. This season, the game will be a key toward determing playoff position, as well as bragging rights.

Here’s a look at the Lawrence-Skowhegan matchup:

When: 7 tonight

Where: Clark Field, Skowhegan

Lawrence coach John Hersom on Skowhegan: “We’ve looked at three of their games, and we’ve charted over 100 plays… It’s something that you don’t see every week, so that’s what makes it challenging.”

Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby on Lawrence: “They’re mixing it up very well. It’s not just the fullback dominating the carries. They have a few good backs.”

Three keys for Lawrence:

• Compete.

Last week, the Bulldogs were down quickly by two touchdowns to Brunswick, but rallied and pulled out a three-point win. Hersom said the team needs to maintain that competitive level against Skowhegan, which avergaes 37 points per game.

“Our biggest asset is the level of competing we show right now. I see improvement in a lot of areas, but sometimes it looks like we show improvement in one area, then we kind of slip a little bit in that same area the next week. We haven’t really had that be the case dramatically. We’re hoping we are competiing at a level consistently where it doesn’t show up as much,” Hersom said.

• Slow down.

Skowhegan is the best offensive team Lawrence may see all season. The best way to keep the Indians from scoring is to keep the offense on the sidelines. If Lawrence can grind out long drives and keep this game from becoming a shootout, the Bulldogs increase their chances to win.

• Shake off the big plays.

To ask any team to shut down Skowhegan completely is asking too much. The Bulldogs know the Indians will make some plays. It’s how Lawrence reacts after those plays are made that will define this game. If there’s a missed tackle or mixup in coverage, the Bulldogs have to forget it and move on.

“As long as we keep competing and trying not to make those same mistakes, I think we’ll be OK,” Hersom said. “We’re kind of hoping the foundation we laid right from preseason on is going to hold up to a lot of the things we need to teach and cover. Certainly reinforcing those things has been a big part of our week.”

Three keys for Skowhegan:

• Third down execution.

While it’s hard to notice in a game in which you give up 56 points, Libby said Skowhegan showed defensive improvement in last week’s 56-54 overtime loss to Biddeford. After looking good on first and second down, Skowhegan allowed too many big plays on third down to extend Biddeford drives. Against anouther good team like Lawrence, that cannot happen.

“There was some progress there,” Libby said. “The positive is the boys fought right to the end. It was great effort on our part.”

• Contain Ballard.

Lawrence quarterback Braden Ballard is a threat to run or pass, and in the case of the waggle plays that are a staple of Lawrence’s offense, he’ll often have the opportunity to do either on a play.

“On that waggle play, it’s always sort of run if you’ve got the green grass,” Libby said.

Skowhegan has to make sure when he rolls out, Ballard doesn’t see that green grass.

• Special teams

Skowhegan failed to convert extra points on their first four touchdowns last week, falling behind Biddeford by four points at the half in the process. In what will likely be a close game, every point is precious. Skowhegan can’t leave any off the board.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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