The Cony and Brunswick football teams will meet tonight, and one of them will see its playoff picture get a whole lot brighter.

The Dragons and Rams enter the regular-season finale in second and third place, respectively, in Class B North behind Skowhegan, and the winner will almost assuredly pass the Indians for the top spot, which would mean a bye and home field throughout the regional playoffs. The loser will finish in third, have to play an additional playoff game, and be on the road for the B North semifinals.

So there’s a lot on the line. And the coaches know it’s better to embrace it than ignore it.

“The kids all know that this is pretty much for the No. 1 seed,” Brunswick coach Dan Cooper said. “There’s no escaping the big-game status of this one.”

The playoff implications add even more spice to what’s become one of the class’ best rivalries. The Rams beat the Dragons in the regular season last year, only for Brunswick, a sixth seed in the playoffs, to deliver payback in the form of a 38-27 victory over No. 3 Cony. Of course, there are still vivid memories of a second-seeded Cony team traveling to Brunswick and beating the top-seeded Dragons in the 2013 regional final en route to a state championship.

“It seems like, every year, Cony’s a big game,” Cooper said. “The kids, anytime we play Cony, they think it’s a big game.”

“We just played the Cony-Gardiner game, which is really our major rival, but Brunswick’s emerged in the last decade as a pretty strong rival as well,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “It’s a different black and orange team this week, but it’s a black and orange team nonetheless.”

Here’s a closer look at the Cony-Brunswick matchup:

When: 7 tonight

Where: Brunswick HS Stadium Field, Brunswick

Cony coach B.L. Lippert on Brunswick: “Brunswick’s very talented offensively, and they’ve been able to do it without a couple of their key offensive guys. … It says a lot about the depth, not only at the running back position, but of their program in general. They can plug different guys in there that can perform.”

Brunswick coach Dan Cooper on Cony: “Cony’s a really good team. We knew all along that it would probably come down to this week. They pass the ball well, they run it well. I’m really impressed with their defense. They’ve got kids that are physical and fast. All of those kids that played last year are playing again, and we had trouble with them last year. We know we’ve got our hands full.”

Three keys for Cony:

• Be ready for the dual threat. Athletic quarterbacks can be an offense in and of themselves in high school football, and Brunswick has one fitting that description in Nate Girardin. Cony will have to find the fine line between overpursuing and leaving itself susceptible to the run, and staying back and ending up vulnerable to the pass.

“(He’s) one of the best athletes in the league,” Lippert said. “Maybe their most dynamic playmaker, to be honest.”

• Get the passing game going. After operating at a high level in convincing wins over Lawrence, Hampden and Brewer, Cony’s aerial attack sputtered in a muddy, slower-paced win over Gardiner. The Rams will need quarterback Riley Geyer to be sharp tonight.

• Set the edge and contain. Brunswick has a power-running game, but also likes to get around the end, especially with Girardin running on waggle plays from the quarterback spot. If ends Jake Mills and Nic Mills can keep those runs contained and limit where the Dragons can go, keeping them off the board becomes a lot easier.

Three keys for Brunswick:

• Buckle down in the red zone. Cony’s moved the ball consistently throughout the season, but has had its problems capping drives off with touchdowns, especially against good opponents. Making a couple of stands and turning 14 points into six or fewer could be the difference between a win and a loss.

• Win the line of scrimmage. Cam Hathaway has been a load to bring down all season, and will look to do his damage between the tackles. If he’s able to rack up the yardage behind an offensive line consistently pushing Cony’s defense back, the Rams could find themselves fighting a losing battle on the scoreboard.

• Strike early. Geyer is a real talent and when he and his weapons on offense get rolling, Cony becomes too much to stop. He’s also a sophomore, however, and playing in a big spot. If Brunswick can make sure he’s having to play from a hole, Cony’s confidence might take a hit.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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