SKOWHEGAN — A few times each football season, Skowhegan Area High School head coach Ryan Libby self scouts his team. When Libby looks at his offense this season, one thing stands out to him.

“After five weeks, we had called 133 run plays, 133 pass plays,” Libby said.

Even accounting for mislabeled plays on the call sheet, that offensive harmony is exactly what Libby and Skowhegan are looking for. Coming off a season in which Skowhegan’s offense was heavily reliant on the pass — often skewed 70 percent pass, 30 percent run — Libby said, the balance gives opposing defenses more to consider. While Skowhegan isn’t putting up video game-like stats through the air anymore, the Indians are still winning. At 4-2 (4-0 in Pine Tree Conference Class B games), Skowhegan sits in first place in the conference Heal Point standings, with games at Lawrence and home against Mt. Blue to round out the regular season.

“We’re just trying to do whatever we can do to get the win. We’re making adjustments during the game that give us the best chance to win. I just do what they tell me to do and go with it,” quarterback Marcus Christopher said.

Through six games last season, Christopher has passing stats rarely seen in Maine high school football. He had 1,639 yards, with 22 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Through the first six games of the 2017 season, Christopher threw for more than 400 yards three times. Part of that was out of necessity. The Indians were in a number of high-scoring shootouts that required Christopher to sling it all over the field to a talented group of receivers.

With the graduation of three of those wideouts — Jon Bell, Cam Barnes, and Sean Savage — things had to change this season. That trio combined for 114 catches for 1,712 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, and Libby knew that production would be hard to duplicate.

“We’ve got talented guys across the board. We just don’t have that speed and that same sort of explosive play capability,” Libby said. “In terms of play calling, we can’t rely on the stay screen going for 70 yards… It may have took Marcus a little time to realize, ‘Oh, I don’t have the studs I had last year.’ But the kid’s so smart. He really understands our system well enough to know, ‘OK this read’s not here, I’ll go to my checkdown. I can tuck it and run if I need to.'”

Colby Miller (21 catches for 332 yards, four touchdowns) and Aidan Louder (13 catches for 301 yards, three touchdowns) lead Skowhegan’s revamped receiving corps. It took a little time for Christopher to get in sync with his new targets, but it started to come together in week two’s 29-26 come from behind win over Brunswick. Down 20-0 in the first quarter, the Indians rallied. Christopher finished with 308 yards passing and four touchdowns, including a 60 yard touchdown pass to Louder early in the fourth quarter to give Skowhegan the lead for good.

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan Skowhegan’s Hunter Washburn, left, catches a pass from Marcus Christopher during a Pine Tree Conference game earlier this season in Augusta.

“It’s definitely tougher, kind of picking up the slack from the guys from last year. With Marcus showing me what to do and the coaches helping out, it definitely got a lot easier than it was at the beginning of the season,” Miller said.

Christopher still has strong passing numbers, completing 63.3 percent (81 for 128) for 1,203 yards and 13 touchdowns with just three picks, but he’s also added a ground dimension to his game, with 34 carries for 341 yards and two touchdowns. Through six games last season, Christopher had run for minus-5 yards without a score.

“His ability to run the ball this year has really been a plus,” Libby said. “His dedication in the off season helped that. I think he picked up a little speed. He’s a big kid. He’s one of the biggest kids we have offensively. So if he’s going to be able to keep (the ball) more, and get his body going forward, that’s a plus for us. He’s just had the wherewithal to do it more this year.”

Added Christopher: “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s drawn up runs. It’s just kind of making plays. I’m just doing whatever I can to get us a touchdown, first down, whatever we need.”

The development of running back Hunter Washburn has also been a key to Skowhegan’s offensive remake. Last season, Washburn had 72 carries through six games. This season, Washburn has 100 carries for 335 yards and five touchdowns, as well as 15 catches for 162 yards and two more scores. To Washburn, this season has been about trusting the offensive line.

“Last year I was trying to pick my own holes. Now I realize holes are being made for me,” Washburn said.

“Hunter’s just become a little more consistent. Another year getting a little bit more physically mature. This preseason, he kind of took over that role,” Libby said. “There was no real conversation about who was going to get the majority of the carries. We knew it was going to be Hunter.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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