BRUNSWICK — When you are counting on your standout fullback and linebacker to lead the team, what happens when he’s hurt in the first game?

Next guy up.

That’s been the theme for the Brunswick football team, which will play for the Class B state championship Saturday against Marshwood.

Owen Richardson broke his collarbone in the first game, a 27-24 win over Falmouth.

“We had plans of really relying on Owen this season,” said senior quarterback Nate Girardin. To help fill the void, Girardin occasionally lines up as a running back, with Noah Goddard at quarterback.

But Girardin is dealing with a sore hamstring muscle. Other Dragons are likewise beat up.

Cam Hathaway moved from wingback to fullback to replace Richardson. But Hathaway was hurt before the North final last week and was to be used only in an emergency.

The emergency came when Hathaway’s replacement, Jack Harvey, came off the field with an injury (Harvey had recently rejoined the team after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the first game).

So with no Richardson and no Harvey – and with both Girardin and Hathaway limited – who could the Dragons turn to? Junior running back Mitchell Lienert stepped in and rushed for 170 yards. His 49-yard run keyed the winning 68-yard drive in the fourth quarter as the Dragons beat Lawrence, 14-10.

“We’ve had to go to our third-string guys a few times,” said Brunswick Coach Dan Cooper. “It seems like when someone gets a chance, he shines, and Lienert has been one of those guys.”

Cooper said Girardin, Hathaway and Harvey should all be ready for Saturday. Richardson might even be back.

Skill players are key, but Brunswick knows that to beat Marshwood, it must be done in the trenches. Line play has not always been the Dragons’ strength.

“We started out pretty rough, learning our assignments,” said center Nathan Curtis. “We’re well-seasoned now. We know what we’re doing.”

Even though the offensive line is mostly seniors, “a lot of those guys didn’t start last year,” Cooper said. “But they’re coming around. They’re getting better each week.”

Defensively, Brunswick has the same sense of urgency with its line. Good defense has meant good results – and vice versa.

Of Brunswick’s three losses, two were blowouts – 42-0 to Kennebunk on Sept. 21 and 30-6 to Cony on Oct. 19.

“Kennebunk beat us up, up front, and we just couldn’t stop the run,” Cooper said.

“It was the same thing the first time we played Cony. They just pushed us round and beat us up front. They ran us over.”

Two weeks after that Cony loss, the Dragons and Rams met in the playoffs. Brunswick prevailed, 21-13.

“We were very stout up front against them the second time around,” Cooper said, citing the play of senior linemen Connor Pendergast, Jeremiah McNeill and Cole Engstrom.

After beating Cony, Brunswick headed to the North final against Lawrence, a team the Dragons beat 55-28 earlier in the season. At halftime, Brunswick was down 10-7. The Bulldogs were controlling the line.

“We struggled against Lawrence in the first half. We still have our issues,” Cooper said. “But when the kids are physical, we tend to play pretty well.

“Of course, we’ll have to step up our game against Marshwood, probably the best team we’ve seen all year.

Both Marshwood and Brunswick are in the title game for the fourth time in five years. They’ve met twice, with Marshwood winning 44-18 in 2014 and 21-14 in 2015. Brunswick beat Kennebunk in 2016, and Marshwood routed Skowhegan last year.

Marshwood is heavily favored on Saturday.

“A lot of people are writing us off,” Girardin said. “But we’ve changed a lot. We’ve found our stride.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH

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