The wind chill was seven degrees on the night of the Pine Tree Conference Class B championship game. It was the kind of cold that makes your fingers stiffen, the kind of cold that makes it hard to even hold a pen. Yet there was Skowhegan Area High School quarterback Marcus Christopher, throwing 43 passes in the most miserable throwing conditions of the season. He completed 24 of those throws, around 56 percent, for 370 yards and two touchdowns, helping Skowhegan earn the conference title with a 23-0 win over Lawrence.

“The rain, the cold, I’m fine with that,” Christopher, a junior, said.

Very little slowed down Christopher and the Skowhegan offense this season. The Indians averaged 36 points per game and won the PTC for the first time since 2008. Along the way, Christopher put up passing numbers rarely seen in Maine, throwing for 3,089 yards and 39 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

For his efforts in leading Skowhegan to the regional championship, Christopher is the Morning Sentinel Football Player of the Year. Also considered were Austin Pelletier of Messalonksee, Ryan Fredette of Winslow, Adam Bertrand of Maine Central Institute, and Jon Bell, Christopher’s Skowhegan teammate.

Christopher took over as Skowhegan’s quarterback after serving as the understudy to Garrett McSweeney — the Indians’ Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist — last season. Ryan Libby, Skowhegan’s first-year head coach, and offensive coordinator BJ Dunlap, himself a former Skowhegan quarterback, knew Christopher had a high football IQ and a strong arm.

“We knew the talent was there. We didn’t know how comfortable he would be. We were hoping he would come in with some confidence,” Libby said. “We got way more than we expected.”

Christopher completed 63.5 percent of his passes (219-345) and had three 400-yard pasing games. He hit his stride in Week 3, a 57-42 loss at Messalonskee. While Skowhegan struggled to stop the Eagles strong running game, Christopher threw for 448 yards and four touchdowns to keep the game close. He followed that with a 472-yard, seven-touchdown effort in a 48-29 win at Brunswick. Two weeks later, on Oct. 6, Christopher threw for 440 yards and eight touchdowns in a 56-54 overtime loss at Biddeford.

Christopher threw six touchdown passes and ran for another in a 58-56 win over Lawrence. That victory began Skowhegan’s four-game win streak that carried through the regional playoffs. Cony coach BL Lippert was impressed with Christopher’s pocket presence.

“All teams try to get pressure on him and disrupt his rhythm, but even if you do that, he moves around the pocket subtlely. Certainly against us he stepped up, rolled out, made plays on the move. It’s something you can’t really coach. It’s just an inate ability. That makes it really tough to defend,” Lippert said.

Much of Christopher’s success came from his ability to read defenses before the snap. Most of the time, Christoper knew where he was throwing the ball before the play began.

“A lot of my stuff is off presnap reads. I’m really reading one (defender). If he goes a certain way, I’ll throw it to that guy. If he doesn’t, I’ll throw it to another guy. It’s got to be pretty quick. I pick the best matchup,” Christopher said.

In the regular season finale at Mt. Blue, Christopher saw a defender matches up alone on the perimeter in press coverage against wide receiver Cam Barnes. Christopher knew Barnes would be open, and the play went for a long touchdown pass.

“I knew (Barnes) was going to beat him over the top,” Christopher said. “I like seeing those guys score touchdowns and make big plays. It’s pretty exciting when they run the ball 94 yards and score a touchdown.”

Those guys are Skowhegan’s trio of senior recievrs, Barnes, Bell, and Sean Savage, who combined for 114 catches, 1,712 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season. Christopher said he’d look for the open man, but often, that meant choosing one of those three.

“There were definitely a few times that happened,” Christopher said.

A quarterback since he began playing football in third grade, Christopher follows in the footsteps of his father, current Skowhegan Athletic Director Jon Christopher, who was a standout quarterback at Madison in the late ’80s.

“He gives me quite a few tips, but mostly it’s stuff I can work on,” the younger Christopher said. “He played a lot tougher than I did, that’s for sure. He ran the ball a lot more than I do. He wasn’t afraid to lower his shoulder.”

Also a basketball and baseball player, Christopher said he has yet to begin the college selection process. One of the things he’d like to improve next season is standing in the pocket a little longer when the play needs to develop.

“Standing in there longer, stepping up in the pocket rather than trying to flush outside. Sometimes I try to scramble and run into sacks,” he said.

Added Libby: “Physically, he’s got all the tools. We want him to continue to grow as a leader. He was a junior captain this season and did a great job, and that will be expected of him next season.”

Reaching the state championship was a thrill, Christopher said, and he wants to help make sure Skowhegan gets there more often. This was Skowhegan’s third trip to the state game since 1989.

“It was definitely a good feeling, because we’re trying to start the tradition again,” Christopher said. “Make it an every year thing instead of once in a while.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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