SKOWHEGAN — Trailing rival Mt. Blue by 11 points at halftime, there would be no fiery speech from the Skowhegan football team’s coaching staff. There was no impassioned plea for a gut check, no reminder of great Skowhegan teams of the past.

Skowhegan knew it just needed to play better football, and in the second half, it did.

Skowhegan scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and pulled away with a 51-34 win over the Cougars. Skowhegan enters the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs at 4-4, while Mt. Blue is 5-3.

Mt. Blue senior Kevon Johnson, left, runs through Skowhegan defender Brayden Doucette during a Pine Tree Conference Class B game Friday night at Clark Field in Skowhegan. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“We talked about coming together as a team,” said Skowhegan senior co-captain Zeb Tibbetts, a linebacker. “It’s senior night, so everybody’s really energetic.”

Down 28-17 at the half, Skowhegan cut the Cougars lead to 28-23 with 3:41 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard Mason Fitzgerald touchdown run.

On the ensuing Mt. Blue drive, freshman Adam Savage intercepted a pass, his third pick of the game. Skowhegan scored on the first play of the possession, a 31-yard pass from Cam Green to Cam Louder down the right sideline. A shovel pass from Green to Marcus Hampton on the conversion was good, and Skowhegan led 31-28.

“We just had to clean it up,” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said of overcoming the halftime deficit. “The offense was working well. We liked our alignments. We liked what we had scripted up from the week. But defensively we had given up a couple big plays. Some scrambles that are just unlucky and some blown coverages. We just had to clean up those things.”

Mt. Blue quarterback Hunter Meeks completed 3 of 9 passes in the first half, but each went for a touchdown. On fourth and 10 at the Skowhegan 35, Meeks connected with Kyle Fox for a score and a 7-0 lead just 1:15 into the game. After forcing a Skowhegan three and out, Fox and Meeks connected again, this time for a 57-yard TD strike and a 13-0 Cougars lead.

After Skowhegan got on the board with a 31-yard field goal by Miles Lambke, the Cougars struck again. Tucker Nicholas’ 56-yard kick return set Mt. Blue up at the Skowhegan 33. A Skowhegan pass interference penalty on fourth down extended the drive, and three plays later Meeks found Jack Kearing in the middle of the end zone. After Kevin Johnson caught the 2-point conversion pass from Meeks, the Cougars has a 21-3 lead.

“It was a lot of small stuff. It wasn’t them beating the crap out of us. We’d do good, then have one play we everything breaks down,” Tibbetts said.

Skowhegan’s third quarter lead lasted 40 seconds. Meeks rolled to his right and found Kearing behind the defense for a 70-yard touchdown and a 34-31 Mt. Blue lead with 1:11 left in the third quarter.

Skowhegan answered that drive, and took the lead for good when Fitzgerald ran for a 27-yard touchdown with 10:31 to play. Fitzgerald finished the game with 152 yards rushing, 45 yards receiving, and four touchdowns.

“Mason Fitzgerald is an unbelievable player. He came up for us big-time this year.” Tibbetts said.

The Cougars turned the ball over in downs at midfield, and Skowhegan scores again, a 13-yard run by freshman Joe Linkletter. After Skowhegan’s attempt at the kickoff went out of bounds three consecutive times, Tucker Nicholas returned the fourth try 50 yards to Skowhegan’s 10.

The Cougars were pushed backward, though, and on fourth and goal from the 21, freshman Quintcey McCray picked off Meeks at the 3 and returned the ball to the Cougar 33. Four plays later, Hampton caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Green for a 51-34 lead.

“I don’t know if we expected a good team to come out and roll over, that easy success stuff,” Mt. Blue coach Scott Franzose said. “I didn’t see that composure. I didn’t see that integrity tonight. That’s a good team (Skowhegan) that’s getting better every week and came to play tonight.”

After the teams traded interceptions in the second quarter, Fitzgerald’s 12-yard touchdown run cut the Cougars lead to 21-10. Mt. Blue answered quickly, this time with Meeks running 36 yards for a score.

Fitzgerald scored his second touchdown, this one a 2-yard run with 12 seconds left in the half, cutting Skowhegan’s deficit to 28-17.

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