SKOWHEGAN — The knock on Skowhegan in the regular season was that the Indians couldn’t play defense. With the playoffs having finally arrived to Clark Field, it looks like the defense has, too.

No. 1 Skowhegan held No. 5 Brewer without a touchdown after the Witches’ first drive of the game, and the Indians’ lit up in the second half in a see-saw 18-13 win in the Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinals Friday night. Jon Bell had a pair of touchdown receptions to ignite the offense for Skowhegan (6-3), and he also came up with a pair of key third-quarter interceptions to thwart a Brewer drive that would have dramatically shifted momentum in favor of the visitors.

It was the first time since September that Skowhegan, which will host Lawrence in the conference finals, held a team to fewer than 26 points.

“There was no way we were going to lose this game,” Bell said, adding of the team’s defensive doubters: “We just proved it to them right there.”

“(Bell) played an amazingly tough game,” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said. “It was like he was trying to put us all on his shoulders and carry us.”

Junior quarterback Marcus Christopher recovered from a pedestrian start — and a three-and-out start in the first possession of the second half — for a huge second half. Christopher went 10 of 12 for 193 yards and two touchdowns through the air in the final two quarters, while also running for the winning score with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Overall, Christopher was 16 of 26 through the air for 241 yards.

“We made some changes on offense,” Bell said. “They were doing weird things on their defensive line that our offensive line couldn’t pick up. So we changed that up, and we picked it up good. We started making plays on the offensive side.”

No play was more important than Bell’s 66-yard touchdown catch-and-run early in the third quarter to finally put the Indians on the scoreboard after trailing 10-0 at halftime. It capped a lightning-quick, two-play scoring drive that covered 80 yards and pulled the home team to within 10-6.

Almost as soon as Skowhegan finally scored, Brewer’s Bryant Kiley ripped off a 60-yard run on the Witches’ very next play — with Bell chasing him down and tackling him 3 yards shy of the end zone. Two snaps later, Bell picked off Brewer quarterback Cody Wood in the end zone.

“That was a great defensive stop,” Libby said. “We just played very well defensively tonight.”

Bell’s monster third quarter continued with a 30-yard touchdown catch with 2:58 left in the period to give the Indians a 12-10 lead.

Brewer opened the scoring with a 66-yard, four-minute drive in the first quarter, capped by Andrew Kiley’s 4-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. With a second remaining in the opening half, left-footed kicker Tyler Bean drilled a 37-yard field goal to make it 10-0 in favor of the Witches.

All Brewer got in the second half, despite churning through yards and plays, was a 21-yard field goal in the first minute of the final quarter.

“We got things clicking at the right time,” Libby said of the team’s defense. “Obviously, having two weeks to get kids healthy and to get some extra preparation helped, but it’s really all about the kids and their effort they put in. It was the will to win, their will to get it done.

“Stopping a Brewer team that’s ready to come out with big kids and drive it down your throat, that’s a big accomplishment for us after the year we’ve had.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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