You may have thought, given the Skowhegan football team’s 0-3 start, that one of the Pine Tree Conference’s more consistent programs was going to take the odd year off from being in the Class B North chase.

Well, guess again. One week and an emphatic shutout win over Gardiner later, Skowhegan has the looks of a team that expects to stick around this season.

“That’s one thing we’ve been really preaching to the kids, even before the win,” coach Ryan Libby said. “We knew we had a really tough early schedule, and we just kept telling them ‘As long as you keep working, as long as you stick together and sort of battle through the hard times, you’re going to be fine in the long run. We just do what we’ve got to do to get through the schedule and we’ll be there in the end.’ ”

Skowhegan dropped its first three games to Brunswick, Cony and Lawrence, who are a combined 11-1. It was a tough slate, but Libby knew his team wasn’t finished yet, particularly with a strong finish in the Lawrence loss and games against 1-3 Bangor, 1-3 Hampden and 0-4 Messalonskee awaiting on the schedule.

His team needed a win, however, as words and encouragement can ring hollow without the victory to go with them. On Friday, Skowhegan got that needed triumph, dominating Gardiner in a 37-0 victory.

“The kids seemed to do really well buying into it and showing they believed, but I think it took the outcome of Friday night to really make it sink in,” Libby said. “It’s a lot of lip service before you actually get a ‘W’ on the board. … It’s hard to keep hearing that without some payout.”

The victory was needed, but Libby was especially happy with the way his team left no doubt. The defense was excellent, and Mason Fitzgerald announced his presence as a major B North offensive threat with 225 total yards and two scores.

Skowhegan wasn’t dead before, but with the favorable stretch coming up, it might be alive and well to boot.

“It rarely goes sort of as you script it, from a coach’s standpoint, but that’s really what happened Friday night,” Libby said. “Confidence is as high as it’s been all year. … (We believe) that we can be a playoff team and be successful in the playoffs. We really needed a win to solidify that.”

• • •

Cony’s big 44-28 win over Lewiston wasn’t without its hiccups.

Lewiston had scored on back-to-back drives to turn a 23-0 score into a 23-14 advantage with 2:54 left in the first half, and the Rams drove deep into Blue Devil territory looking for points before the break. Riley Geyer appeared to finish the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, but officials ruled he didn’t reach the goal line, and on the next play, a high snap forced a 3rd-and-goal from the 11 and prompted a final Cony timeout.

An impromptu powwow about how to handle the play didn’t pan out, as Geyer scrambled for 6 yards but left the Rams needing to try a rushed field goal attempt in the final seconds. The kick was easily blocked, and even though Cony prevailed, coach BL Lippert reflected on the missed opportunity.

“I told them a lot in that timeout, I did not tell them ‘If it’s not there, throw it away,’ ” he said. “That’s partly on me, but as a second-year starter now, you’ve got to know, no timeouts.”

The play was designed for Adrian Larrabee to get free on a double move on the sideline, but Lewiston covered it tightly, forcing Geyer to improvise. Lippert said the play could be a learning experience for the team going forward.

“He’s rolling right, he can just flip that out of bounds, we’ll take our time to get the field goal kicker out there,” Lippert said. “It was a little sloppy there, and as a coach, you’ve got to remind them of that in the timeout. … Part of that’s on me, but part of that he needs to start figuring out. … He really is starting to emerge as a big leader for this team and someone we rely on pretty heavily.”

• • •

Winslow rolled through each of its last three games, giving coach Mike Siviski a problem most coaches never experience.

“I’m kind of concerned with our varsity guys only playing a half. Our JVs have played almost as much as the varsity the last three weeks,” Siviski said following Saturday’s 69-21 win over Foxcroft Academy.

Since an 18-6 loss to Wells on opening night, the Black Raiders have dominated, outscoring opponents 207-27 over the last three games. Each of those games was well in hand by halftime, leading Siviski to pull starters for all or most of the second half. Winslow’s first unit played approximately half the third quarter Saturday against the Ponies.

Siviski doesn’t expect that trend to continue. Winslow’s next three games are against playoff contenders Oceanside (2-2), MCI (4-0) and Hermon (3-1).

• • •

With a 34-33 win over Cape Elizabeth Friday, Wells extended its win streak to 32 games. The one-point win was the Warriors’ closest-call during the streak, which has had few close games.

In 2018, Wells rolled relatively untested through the regular season and playoffs. The lone exception was a 26-20 midseason win at Spruce Mountain. That was the only game of the 2018 season in which Wells’ opponent stayed within two touchdowns of the Warriors.

In 2017, back-to-back early season games against Cape Elizabeth and Madison tested the Warriors. Wells answered with a 14-7 win over the Capers, and a week later a 25-21 win over a Madison team that took an early lead.

Wells will go for its 33rd straight win Friday night in a battle of undefeated teams, when it travels to Pittsfield to take on Maine Central Institute.

• • •

A gesture of good will took place at the Lewiston-Cony game on Friday.

The school held its 50/50 raffle, with proceeds going to assist the Farmington Fire Department following an explosion that killed Fire Captain Michael Bell and wounded six other firefighters. A member of the Augusta Fire Department won the raffle, a $280 prize, and gave his reward back to the fundraising effort, bringing the entire day’s total of donations to $880.

 

• • •

AROUND THE STATE: This week’s Game of the Year is one of the most anticipated games on the schedule: Bonny Eagle (4-0) at Thornton Academy (4-0). The Class A juggernauts meet at Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium Saturday afternoon… There are two big games in Class B South this weekend, as the four 3-1 teams at the top of the standings square off. Massabesic is at Kennebunk, while Biddeford travels to Marshwood. Both games are set for Friday at 6 p.m…. There’s an interesting cross-class game between North C and D contenders Friday, with Class D North favorite Bucksport (4-0) playing at Class C North contender Hermon (3-1)… It seems there’s a bit of parity in the new 8-man league. Each of the 10 teams has at least one win. No other class in the state can say that.

Staff writer Travis Lazarczyk contributed to this report.

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