PORTLAND — The score got out of hand, but for a while, the game was not.

For a while, the Skowhegan Area High School football team was trading punches with Marshwood in Saturday’s Class B championship game, always trailing but also looming, in position to jump right back into the game with a Marshwood mistake or two.

Thanks to a pair of big plays, the Indians had a chance.

The first was a captivating 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by senior speedster Jon Bell. The second was a 94-yard touchdown connection on third down from Marcus Christopher to one of the Pine Tree Conference’s best receivers in Cam Barnes.

The kickoff return came after a halfback option pass from Kyle Glidden to Sam Cartmill put Marshwood ahead 14-0 with 4:41 to go in the first quarter. The Hawks’ kick skidded down to the 1-yard line, where Bell, inviting disaster, picked up the ball and started upfield.

“We’re telling him ‘Jeez, what are you doing, let it go into the end zone,’ ” coach Ryan Libby said.

Bell, meanwhile, was less concerned.

“I know I have good blockers in front of me, setting it all up,” he said. “I know I can make plays here and there, so I just took a shot. … Every time I pick up the ball I’m looking to break it, because I know I have the speed to do it.”

Bell ran diagonally left toward the middle of the field, raced around the corner while slipping through arm tackles and then turned upfield through a hole in the coverage as cheers came in from the Skowhegan sideline and fans.

“When I was turning the corner, I had two lead blockers in front of me and one more guy left,” Bell said. “I knew I had something big going.”

“When he finally broke it back to our sideline and he started to outrun me immediately and I was chasing him, I knew he was gone then,” Libby said. “He is on the verge of doing that every time he touches the ball. It’s something we’ve seen often this year, and it was beautiful to see him just tough it out, break a couple of tackles and finally get the edge.”

• • •

The second big play came in one of the toughest spots to break one.

The Indians were backed up deep in their own territory, facing third-and-24 from their own 6-yard line. Skowhegan called a play sending Barnes into the middle of the field, where Libby figured he’d have enough room to pick up the kind of yardage the Indians were looking for.

“The safeties are either not there because they’re going zero (deep), or they’re really wide,” he said. “We know that zone in the field’s open, and we’re just trying to get Marcus’s attention and he finally recognized (it) and he was able to get it to Cam.”

Barnes got the yardage needed and more, turning up the seam through the gaping space and outrunning the defense the rest of the way for the touchdown.

“When Cam’s got a few steps on you, he’s not quite as fast as Bell, but he’s going to run away from you,” Libby said.

“(I was thinking) ‘Get to the sticks,’ absolutely, but if it turns into a big play, that’s awesome,” Barnes said. “You’ve just got to believe in what the coaches call. .. Run your routes hard, and if you get the ball, just work hard with it.”

The touchdown cut Skowhegan’s deficit to 35-20 with 10:17 to go in the third quarter, and rejuvenated an Indians team hoping for a second-half comeback. That hope grew stronger after Skowhegan forced a Marshwood punt on the next possession, but the Indians had to punt as well, and Marshwood scored on the next series and never looked back.

“It was definitely a momentum boost for us,” Barnes said of his touchdown. “It got things going for us in the third quarter, but we just got outmatched and outplayed.”

• • •

The Class C and D champions remained the same this season — well, sort of.

A year after Wells and Maine Central Institute won Class C and D titles, respectively, the Warriors and Huskies added another gold ball to their collections. This time, however, MCI took the Class C crown and Wells claimed the Class D title, a result of enrollment-based realignment before the season.

Whether it’s Class C or Class D, according to the players, it doesn’t matter.

“Last year was amazing too, but being able to do it again this year, being a senior this year, this really feels like ours,” Wells running back and linebacker Nolan Potter said. “They had their state championship and now we have our state championship as seniors, and this is going to be the memory I have going out playing high school football. It’s unreal. I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”

MCI coach Tom Bertrand, speaking in the middle of a jubilant crowd of Huskies after Friday’s win over Cape Elizabeth, sounded just as thrilled with the second title as the first.

“We got healthy, we got better, we started to peak. Our kids came together and our coaches, we just buckled down and good things happened,” he said. “We’re very fortunate. We’re just ecstatic that the kids get this glory.”

• • •

It was supposed to be Wells’s weakness, provided the Warriors had one.

If there was one area where the D South champions could be attacked, it was through the air. The Warriors couldn’t be pushed around on the line, but pass plays were different. Or so it seemed.

It wasn’t the case Saturday, as Wells completely snuffed out Foxcroft’s high-powered pass game. The Ponies, who averaged 39.9 points per game entering the state final, threw for only 53 yards in the first half as Wells mounted a 34-0 lead, and starting quarterback Nick Clawson completed only six of 26 passes in a dreary outing.

“We had to go at 2:30 (for practice) because of lighting,” coach Tim Roche said. “But they’ll go right out at 2 and start working on pass defense. … They’re out there and they run plays against each other that they know Foxcroft is going to run. And we’ve been doing this for three or four weeks.”

Wells’ run defense strangled the talented Madison ballcarriers in the D South final, but the Bulldogs had been able to pick up chunks of yardage through the air. As Saturday approached, the Warriors became determined to prevent a repeat performance.

“We prepared all week, 7-on-7 before every practice so we know what’s coming,” cornerback Tyler Bridge said. “We look at our mistakes from the past week, look at what they do well, and make sure we stop both of them.”

Bridge, tall for a corner, had the biggest role in determining that. The junior drew the Ponies’ top receiver in Hyatt Smith and shut him down, taking away vertical routes and allowing only three catches for 38 yards while picking off a pair of deep passes.

“He was kind of my guy today,” Bridge said, smiling. “We knew he liked to go deep, so we made sure we stopped that first.”

“We put Tyler on their best player, especially due to the height (advantage),” Roche said. “He did a great job. I thought a couple of times he was beat, but he catches right up.”

• • •

Even in a 48-0 win, there was a moment of suspense for the Wells football team.

It happened early, in the opening minutes with the score tied at zero after the powerful Warriors offense went three-and-out on its first possession. The ball was at the Wells 26-yard line, and disaster seemed to strike when the snap sailed over punter Nolan Potter’s head and skidded just in front of the goal line.

In what could have been a moment of panic, however, Potter, a senior and team leader, kept his cool.

“I didn’t get an ‘uh oh’ feeling,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep your mind straight. You can’t get freaked out about it, because that’s the worst thing you can do.”

Potter backed up those words. In a situation in which many punters would either minimize damage by falling on the ball or kicking it through the end zone for a safety, Potter picked it up and, knowing he had time, calmly kicked the ball away, getting a friendly roll on top of it that put the ball at the 50.

It was as close as the Ponies came to scoring, and two drives later, it was Potter rumbling in from 30 yards out to give Wells its first points of what became a busy afternoon.

“I think it was just our perseverance,” Potter said of the team getting over its early offensive struggles. “Just being able to have the endurance to keep going and keep fighting, because it pays off in the end.”

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