OAKLAND — It was looking like a game — a second half, in particular — to forget for Anthony Sousa. Until the Cony defense gave its quarterback a chance to play the hero once again.

The senior captain didn’t miss it.

Sousa threw for three touchdowns, then ran for the clinching score to lift the Rams to their fifth straight win and their biggest of the season, a 27-17 victory over Messalonskee at Veterans Field in Oakland Friday night.

“With the game on the line, No. 14 running for the pylon, I was pretty confident he’d get in,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “Some of these gray hairs that are cropping up are maybe from Anthony’s decision-making throwing the ball tonight, but I love the way he plays the game on both sides of the ball. He’s a winner, and in crunch time I guess we saw that again.”

Sousa threw his touchdown passes in the first half to stake Cony (5-2) out to a 21-14 lead, but then gave the Eagles (4-3) a chance to steal the win late in front of their home fans. Interceptions ended three straight Rams drives, and were sandwiched around an illegal block Sousa threw to negate a long Jordan Roddy punt return early in the fourth quarter.

The Cony defense didn’t buckle, however, limiting one of Class B North’s highest-scoring offenses to a 30-yard Kyle Burger-Roy field goal with 3:16 left in the third quarter to make it 21-17. The next two drives, despite each starting at the Messalonskee 45-yard line, resulted in punt attempts, and the snap for the second one sailed over Burger-Roy’s head and allowed Cony to take over at the Eagles 9.

The Rams just needed the knockout blow, and Sousa (18 carries, 70 yards — 57 in the fourth quarter) provided it. He dropped back to pass on second-and-goal, rolled left and then took off down the left sideline, vaulting over the left pylon to make it 27-17 with 5:42 to play.

“It needed to happen. Somebody had to step up and make the play,” said Sousa, who also completed 20 of 31 passes for 210 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. “I needed to do something. I was headed downhill, I was like ‘All right, I need to just get my head out of the gutter, step it up and play some football.’ “

“He made a couple of mistakes, and that’s out of character for him,” Lippert added. “I said ‘You’ve got to make one more play for us and we’re going to win this game.’ “

Cony’s defense held on the next series, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 45 to ice the win. Mistakes on offense haunted Messalonskee with the game on the line; the Eagles fumbled away the ball near midfield in the third quarter, had a false start turn a third-and-6 at the 11 into a third-and-11 from the 16 on the field goal drive, and committed a false start and gave up a drive-killing sack before the high snap on the second-to-last drive of the game.

The result, coach Brad Bishop said, was a loss in which it was tough for the Eagles to fault anyone but themselves.

“We had too many penalties again. Every time we had a drive going, we had a penalty that stalled us,” he said. “Just a complete lack of discipline as far as execution on the offensive side.”

Bishop praised his defense, which allowed Sousa to go 14-for-20 for 172 yards and the three touchdowns in the first half but only 6-for-11 for 38 yards and the three picks in the second.

“We just told them to play. Play better,” said Bishop, whose team got interceptions from Gabe Bessey, Noah Tuttle, Tyler Lewis and Deklan Thurston. “When the ball’s in the air, go get it. That was the only thing we told them, seriously.”

Lippert spoke warmly about his own defense, which held strong against the Eagles’ vaunted rushing attack. The Rams didn’t shut down the trio of Austin Pelletier (19 carries, 86 yards, one touchdown), Lewis (seven carries, 45 yards) and Alden Balboni (eight carries, 37 yards), but they did limit all three, and kept Messalonskee from breaking big plays and putting up points in a hurry.

“Our defense has been resilient all year,” Lippert said. “I can’t say enough about coach (Brandon) Terrill and the gameplans he’s come up with week after week.”

And with the pressure at its highest, the defense was at its best.

“We’ve got the best defense in the conference right now,” Sousa said. “They only put 14 up in the first half. That’s not Messalonskee.”

Cony’s late stand preserved a fast start, as the Rams went 71 yards on their second drive of the game and finished it with a scoring play for the highlight reel. Matthew Wozniak took a screen pass to the right, wove through defenders, raced into the open field and evaded a final Eagle’s grasp at the goal line for a 40-yard touchdown to make it 7-0.

Cony’s next drive, set up by a 42-yard punt return from Roddy, was just as productive, with Sousa hitting Reed Hopkins (five catches, 51 yards) with a 10-yard pass to bump the lead to 14-0 with 1:58 left in the first.

The Eagles immediately responded, first with a 63-yard drive that featured a 26-yard run from Lewis and an 18-yard run from Balboni into the end zone to cut the gap to 14-7 with 10:50 left in the half. Bessey intercepted Sousa to end Cony’s next drive and Messalonskee cashed in, marching 82 yards for the tying touchdown. Pelletier scored it on a 1-yard run with 4:26 left in the half, one play after a 19-yard run in which he took a hit, spun in the air and landed in front of the goal line.

The fireworks weren’t finished. Sousa teamed up with Dutil (five catches, 79 yards) on Cony’s last drive of the half, hitting him first for 22 yards to the Messalonskee 34 and then, after an offensive penalty, for 17 on a comeback route to the Eagles 22. A screen pass to Logan Leadbetter brought the ball to the 15, and Sousa then found Dutil on the same comeback route, with the senior wideout turning and diving over the pylon for a 21-14 lead with only 31 seconds to go in the half.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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.