The Cony football team had weapons coming back on offense, and a lineup of seniors coming back on defense. It was a promising mix — and as the season arrived, coach B.L. Lippert realized it could be more than that.

“We didn’t know coming into the year what we had,” he said. “And then once we got out there in the preseason, we thought ‘You know what, we might be pretty good.’ ”

They were. Lippert guided the Rams to their best regular season since 1932, as Cony went 7-1 and earned a bye through the first round of the Class B North playoffs while leading the region both in points scored (259) and points allowed (59). For his work in guiding the Rams, Lippert is the Kennebec Journal football Coach of the Year. Oak Hill’s Stacen Doucette, who guided the Raiders to the D South final, was also considered.

“He definitely got the team to its full potential,” senior linebacker and captain Matt Wozniak said. “He’s definitely my favorite coach I’ve ever had. He works us tremendously hard, just gets the best out of us and makes us the best person we can be on and off the field.”

Lippert deflected the credit to his assistants and team while noting the character of his players, the seniors in particular.

“Our senior leadership was outstanding. They did a ton of work in the offseason,” he said. “I know coaches say that every year, but legitimately we had 20 or 30 guys in the weight room pretty much from the end of last season all the way through the summer. … We put so much work in, and as a coach, it’s a great feeling having the leaders we had in that senior group.”

Cony’s engine all season was its defense, an experienced group that in the regular season allowed only 7.4 points per game — the second-best total in the entire state, behind only eventual Class A champion Thornton Academy. But the offense clicked as well, getting a spark from sophomore quarterback Riley Geyer, whom Lippert made the decision to trust with the starting job right before the opener against Messalonskee. Lippert’s call made Geyer the first sophomore to start at quarterback for the Rams since Ben Lucas in 2011.

“Coming out of the preseason, we really debated who was going to start,” Lippert said. “Riley’s raw physical ability is pretty special. He can throw the ball, he can run, he’s got ideal size to play the position.”

There was an opportunity for a quarterback controversy, particularly after senior Dakota Andow relieved an injured Geyer in Week 2 and rallied the team to a win over Biddeford. But Lippert stayed with Geyer, and resisted the temptation to swap both players in and out.

“That’s not what you do at the quarterback position,” Lippert said. “You want to have one. We kind of settled on Riley, he played exceptionally well, and Dakota handled that well.”

With all the pieces in place, Cony rolled, winning its last five regular-season games.

“They’re just a rare group of kids, because sometimes on a Tuesday practice your left guard’s not there, your starting corner’s not there,” Lippert said. “We just didn’t have that. Kids were there every day. They were listening, they watched film. They did everything we asked.”

The players knew that if they didn’t, they’d hear about it. Cony players missing an assignment, block, tackle or pass during a game could expect an angry Lippert waiting for them — if they didn’t first hear him yelling their name from the sideline.

“If you don’t make the play, you know you have to make it the next time,” Wozniak said. “He seems like he’s mad, he definitely is mad in the moment, but he just loves the game, and he expects more and wants more.”

At the same time, Lippert knew how to dial it back and connect with his players.

“In practice, if we’re not practicing hard, he’s going to get on us,” Wozniak said. “But he likes to make it a fun practice. He makes us laugh a lot.”

That’s a big reason why it hurt for the season to end the way it did, with a 21-13 loss to Brunswick in the B North semifinals.

“I think I wanted to win more this year than I did in 2013 when we won states,” he said. “To lose in the playoffs hurts, but it doesn’t take away from the season we had. … That was pretty special, and we told the kids that.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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