Cony High School’s Matt Wozniak is the Kennebec Journal Football Player of the Year. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

It was a sleepy practice, Cony football coach B.L. Lippert remembers. The Rams were working in the week leading up to their playoff game with Brunswick, and the intensity had started to dip.

“(It) was average at best,” Lippert recalled.

It didn’t stay that way. During a drill, senior Matt Wozniak raced after a pass, leapt for it, made the catch and dove to the ground.

The play didn’t matter. But Wozniak was going to make it.

“I remember stopping practice and saying ‘That’s why he’s the best player in the league,’ ” Lippert said. “He just doesn’t quit, he doesn’t give up. Just an incredible leader for us.”

On the best team in the Pine Tree Conference during the regular season, Wozniak was its top player. The outside linebacker and receiver totaled a PTC-leading 94 tackles (over 10 per game), one interception and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns on defense, and 23 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns on offense.

He was named co-Player of the Year for the conference, and he’s also the Kennebec Journal Player of the Year for his performance. Teammate Nic Mills and Oak Hill’s Gavin Rawstron were also considered.

“He refuses to be average at anything,” Lippert said.

Wozniak played every snap of every game. He was getting special teams breathers early on, but after Cony struggled in the punt game in Week 3 against Skowhegan, those breaks were gone too. Wozniak didn’t mind.

“It was kind of just a repeat of my junior year,” he said. “It was my senior year and my last ride, so I had to go out and do what I had to do.”

Whenever he was on the field, he made an impact. As the left outside linebacker on defense he had a nose for the ball, and was able to contain the run, play in zone coverage and blitz in man. Some linebackers fall into categories as cover guys, pass-rushers or run-stuffers. Wozniak, however, knew his versatility was crucial.

“That’s what I expected out of myself, to be able to do it all,” he said. “I practiced on everything, so in a situation I could try to do my best no matter what. I didn’t really set myself on being a run-stop linebacker or pass-heavy (player).”

With Wozniak playing behind Mills, Cony’s opponents knew they had to find another place to run the ball.

“I don’t know if he’s the best linebacker we’ve ever had, but he’s got to be darn close,” Lippert said. “He and Nic Mills on that left side were almost impossible to run against.”

That versatility translated to the offensive side. Wozniak played primarily at wide receiver, but whenever Cony changed up its sets, Wozniak was the flexible piece. In tight end sets, he played tight end. When the formation called for an H-back, set behind the tight end, Wozniak was it.

“He was kind of our Swiss Army knife,” Lippert said.

“I definitely enjoyed both of them,” Wozniak said of playing offense and defense. “Just being on the field was awesome. I loved it no matter what.”

Wozniak felt poised for a big season even before it began. Cony had seniors all over the offensive and defensive lineups, and he knew there was going to be a chance for the team to be special.

“We thought to ourselves, from the beginning, that we were going to be a great team,” he said. “We all knew it, because most of the starters were coming back. But we kind of just had to wait and see after the first game.”

The results proved him right. Cony won its first two games, including a crossover game with B South Biddeford, and then after falling by a point to Skowhegan won five straight games to end the regular season.

“Our confidence was huge,” he said. “We knew what we expected out of each other, and we kept doing it every week.”

As the season went on, Wozniak authored many of the signature plays. He had scoops and scores for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks against Hampden and Gardiner, he had a shoestring, over-the-shoulder catch for a game-clinching first down against Biddeford, and he made a diving catch for a touchdown in the playoff game against Brunswick.

“(I) went out and tried to play my best, do my best and do whatever I had to do for the team,” Wozniak said. “I wasn’t really trying to do it for myself, it was to get the team through and win one for the team.”

Lippert said it was that way all season long.

“He just gives you everything he has,” he said. “One of my all-time favorite Cony football players.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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