Skowhegan quarterback Marcus Christopher, left, runs away from Cony defensive back Adrian Larrabee during a Pine Tree Conference game earlier this season in Augusta. Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

Friday’s game between the Skowhegan and Lawrence high school football teams is the third between the old Pine Tree Conference rivals in two seasons. The first was a shootout, a 58-56 Skowhegan win late in the 2017 regular season. When they played a rematch in the conference championship game a few weeks later, it was more of a defensive game on the coldest night of the season, a 23-0 Skowhegan win in which the Indians pulled away in the second half of another close game.

When they meet again Friday night at Lawrence’s Keyes Field, will it look more like column A or column B?

Going by how each team has played this season, somewhere in between. Both Lawrence (2-4) and Skowhegan (4-2) have had moments of excellence on both sides of the ball, but each has struggled, too.

“We know we still have an opportunity in front of us. I think our kids realize this is the game of football, and nothing is going to come easy,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said.

Each of these teams is going to the playoffs. Lawrence can earn a home game in the first round with a win over Skowhegan and a win against Messalonskee next week. With a win at Lawrence and a victory over Mt. Blue next week, Skowhegan can ensure it won’t leave its Clark Field until the state championship game. Two wins secures home field throughout the playoffs for the Indians.

“We want to take care of the last two games here and get that one spot, which will be difficult at Lawrence,” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said.

Here’s a closer look at the Skowhegan-Lawrence matchup.

When: 7 tonight

Where: Keyes Field, Fairfield

Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby on Lawrence: “Lawrence presents the same challenges they always do. One, they’re extremely well-coached. Two, they’re offense is full of motions and misdirections and trying to get eyes looking where the ball isn’t.”

Lawrence coach John Hersom on Skowhegan: “They’re pretty efficient, as they were a year ago. They make you defend the whole field. It looks like they have added an inside running game. You can’t give them too many opportunities to convert and keep drives going if you want to win.”

Three keys for Skowhegan:

• Read your keys.

Lawrence’s wing-T offense is designed to make defenses pause and find the ball, rather than just attack. If Skowhegan reacts slowly, the Bulldogs can rip off big plays.

“They want to get our backers focused on something else so they can run the ball underneath them,” Libby said. “We can’t get so caught up playing run we get beat over the top with a pass or the quarterback rolling out.”

• Stay balanced.

Last season, if you could defend the pass, you could defend Skowhegan. This season, the Indians are running the ball 50 percent of the time, and that means Lawrence’s defense has to be ready for anything.

• Don’t get ahead of yourself.

After losing in week four to Marshwood in a state championship game rematch, Skowhegan knew it had to run the table the rest of the season to clinch home field throughout the PTC B playoffs for the second straight season. The Indians are halfway there, but if they look past Lawrence at all, that goal can disappear.

“It’s always been about, do our job. We’ve got to win our games, win out. Finishing first was such a benefit for us last year,” Libby said. “We were able to get a bye week and get guys healthy, then two home playoff games really kind of set us up for a good road to Fitzpatrick (Stadium, site of the Class B state championship game). It’s the same thing going forward this year.”

Three keys for Lawrence:

• Get off the field.

Last week’s 55-28 loss to Brunswick was an example of something Lawrence has struggled with all season, getting opponents’ offense off the field. The Dragons were 6 of 10 converting third downs, and 1 of 2 on fourth down tries. When it has the chance to stop a drive, Lawrence needs to do a better job, Hersom said.

“We have been struggling defensively to finish off our series,” Hersom said. “We’re trying to improve on that and focusing on that.”

• Grind out drives.

Skowhegan isn’t scoring at the extremely high rate it did last season, when it scored more than 40 points six times, but the Indians can still give the scoreboard operator a workout. A way Lawrence can offset Skowhegan’s attack is by keeping the ball for long drives and keeping the Indians offense off the field. The Bulldogs run-heavy offense is built for sustained drives. Now the Bulldogs need to execute.

• Contain Christopher.

Skowhegan quarterback Marcus Christopher has 1,203 yards passing with 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions, and he’s added a running dimension to his game this season, with 341 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. Hersom said playing well in coverage and keeping Christopher in the pocket will be important.

“(Christopher) moves pretty well when he realizes the first two or three options in his passing tree aren’t available. He’s quick to make a decision,” Hersom said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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.