SKOWHEGAN — The Rev. Mark Tanner’s phone blew up Sunday night when the New England Patriots scored a touchdown in overtime in the AFC championship game, en route to their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

He had publicly predicted the victory and the final score of the NFL showdown two days earlier and posted the prediction in a very public place — in front of his church. On Friday, Tanner, pastor at the Skowhegan Federated Church, directed his office secretary to post a message on the big sign outside the church on Island Avenue.

It read: “God doesn’t have a favorite team but the pastor does!!”

He then had his prediction of the final score accompany the message.

Patriots, 37. Chiefs, 31.

His faith was blessedly rewarded.


That was the final score as the Patriots stunned the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime.

“I would like to think it was divine intervention, but I’m not that crazy,” Tanner, 62, said by phone Monday.

He’s predicting a Patriots’ Super Bowl victory on Feb. 3, but he won’t reveal what he thinks the score will be. Not yet, anyway.

Tanner, 62, said he was on his way to the Portland Jetport on Friday for a flight to Iowa to visit a friend who had just undergone surgery when he got the idea for the sign.

“I wanted to put that sign up in Skowhegan. I’ve been here long enough, and I thought people would just get a kick out of it,” he said. “I asked my secretary to put the sign up, and I said, ‘I want you to put the score up. I want to make the score 37-31’ because it’s going to be a high-scoring game and that was it. I never thought any more about it until last night when it went into overtime.

“My wife said to the kids, she said, you know if there’s a touchdown scored, the score’s going to be the exact number in the sign that your father predicted.”


The Tanner household in Skowhegan is all about Boston sports, with Red Sox and Patriots memorabilia all over the place. There’s even a small shrine on the hearth of an unused fireplace, with framed pictures of the Patriots including one that celebrates The Last Supper as The Last Laugh and another depicting four Patriots players — quarterback Tom Brady included — doing a mock Abbey Road stroll.

There’s a red “Easy Button” game with Brady’s voice saying “That was easy.” Even the family cat gets in on the fun — his name is Brady.

“When he was getting ready to go on Thursday night, he’s taking memorabilia and putting it into his suitcase so he can have it out there with those people while he’s watching the game with them,” Tanner’s wife, Deb, a math teacher at Skowhegan Area Middle School, said at their home Monday. “This shrine here, we can not take it down. We have to leave it right there for the next two weeks.”

Their daughter, Kaley Brown, a business teacher at Skowhegan Area High School, said she has been a huge Brady fan ever since he was drafted by the Patriots 18 years ago.

“Ever since he came onto the scene back when I was younger, I’ve always just loved him,” said Brown, 27. “He was always the underdog, and I’m a very competitive person and he just is the perfect person to represent Boston sports. I kind of like the underdog mentality. He was picked in the sixth round and everybody kind of wrote him off.

“Now, actually, he is the greatest football player ever.”


Brady is the GOAT, she said, referring to an acronym that stands for “Greatest Of All Time.”

Josh, 30, a welder at Bath Iron Works, said Boston sports teams are in the blood of all five Tanner children — his dad and mom, too.

“I’m a huge fan of both Red Sox and Patriots, but I’ve always been football, football, football,” he said. “Football I don’t miss a game. Whether I have to listen to it on the radio or watch it on my phone, I will not miss a game.”

Deb Tanner, who was named Somerset County Teacher of The Year in 2015 and is the pastor’s wife, said every Sunday during football season is set aside for Patriots’ games. After church, it’s family time, she said, including the New England Patriots in that family mix.

Mark Tanner said he knew the AFC title game Sunday night against the Chiefs was going to be high scoring. When the game was tied in regulation, forcing overtime, he knew he had a chance to nail the final score prediction.

“When they scored the touchdown and it was the 37-31 score my phone blew up,” he said. “My kids were pumped; they got the biggest kick out of it. Let’s just say there was joy in Patriots Nation.”


Now the Patriots are off to Atlanta to face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. The game starts Sunday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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