AUGUSTA — There was no overtime this time. There were no fourth-quarter swings, no last-play heroics.

From start to finish, Chapter 141 of the Cony/Gardiner rivalry belonged entirely to the Rams.

Riley Geyer ran and threw for a score and a Matt Wozniak fumble return for a touchdown highlighted a dominant defensive effort as Cony blanked its rival, 21-0, at Alumni Field.

“It’s definitely a special win,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “Anytime you beat Gardiner in this rivalry, regardless of the score and circumstances, it’s great to win the game.”

The win brought the Cony-Gardiner boot back to Augusta after Gardiner had reclaimed it with a thrilling 13-7 overtime victory last season. This time, there wasn’t going to be any drama.

The Cony (6-1) defense made sure of it.

“It feels really great to win, but to shut them out is another thing,” senior defensive lineman Nic Mills said. “That’s pretty huge.”

There was nowhere to go for the Tigers (3-4), who thrived early in the season with a balanced rushing attack but have been hit hard by injuries. Quarterback Noah Reed was sacked five times, and the Gardiner running back duo of Cam Michaud and Nate Malinowski was held to 74 yards on 23 carries — 21 of which came on one carry.

“I think the key was just everyone’s hard work this week practice,” said Mills, who anchored a stifling front along with cousin Jake, another senior end, and senior tackle Bryant Lucas. “Everyone on our defense works their hardest, gives 100 percent every play, and our defensive coordinator, coach (Brandon) Terrill, he’s outstanding.”

The defense backed up a Cony offense that struggled against Gardiner’s own hard-nosed defense. Geyer was held to only six completions on 16 attempts for 23 yards, and the Tigers held Cony to only 14 points on offense despite five drives that started in Gardiner territory.

“We’re trying to find the parts and pieces to get the defense rolling,” Tigers coach Joe White said. “But Cony put a complete game together tonight. They deserved the victory.”

“(It was) kind of a frustrating night offensively, I didn’t think we did very much well,” added Lippert, whose team got 69 rushing yards from Jamal Cariglia and 39 from Geyer. “Some of it’s us, being out of sorts, but the rest of it is on them. They have a good defensive front. I told Garrett Maheux after the game, he’s the best player, I think, we’ve faced defensively in the last two years. He’s really difficult to block.”

Cony had great field position early, however, as the defense gave the offense the ball at the 45-yard line on each of the first three drives, and the Rams cashed in on the third. A Gardiner penalty moved a 2nd-and-goal from the 15 to the 10, and Geyer found Hopkins alone in the middle of the end zone two plays later for a 7-0 lead with 9:01 left in the second.

Gardiner committed three more penalties on the following drive, and Geyer scored from a yard out to make the lead 14-0 with 41 seconds left in the half.

“No score in the first quarter, and we were feeling really good,” White said. “Then we got a couple of big penalties.”

The Tigers held the Rams on the first two drives of the second half, but Michaud had the ball jarred loose by Lucas on the first play after Gardiner took over at its 41, and Wozniak picked it up and ran untouched the rest of the way for a 40-yard scoop and score and a 21-0 lead with 4:56 left in the third.

“That score, it definitely flipped the game,” Wozniak said. “We weren’t really doing much on offense. That score kind of put it ahead and got our momentum going again.”

The Cony players on the field and sideline celebrated the score as if it were an overtime winner, likely knowing full well that a three-score lead for B North’s best defense was a safe bet.

“Getting up on them 14-0 was a good feeling, but we’d gone up 13-, 14-nothing before and we’ve lost,” said Nic Mills, referencing a 14-13 loss to Skowhegan that came after the Rams went up 13-0. “Getting those points on the board felt good, and when Matt returned that for a touchdown, it just added to that.”

The Cony defense could take it from there, keeping Gardiner off the board to swing the rivalry back the Rams’ way.

“It’s great, especially your senior year, going out and beating your biggest rival,” Wozniak said. “Last year was rough. We waited a while for this game.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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