Lawrence quarterback Andrew Trombley fights for yards against Mt. Blue defender Jack Kearing during a 2019 game in Fairfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

It’s not a playoff game, like it was the last time the Mt. Blue and Lawrence football teams met. But as the Class B North contenders get set for their first countable game in two years, there’s a sense that there’s something riding on Friday night’s matchup at Keyes Field.

“We’re not looking at it down the road, but we’re certainly eager to win our first game,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said. “Every player that is playing high school football wants to win their first game. We definitely have that as a motivation for us, and especially being on Keyes Field, which is where we have a lot of pride. It’s Mt. Blue, it’s a good rivalry that we’ve had.”

“Lawrence and Skowhegan are huge rivalries for us. They’re always big games,” Mt. Blue coach Scott Franzose said. “No one game ever defines us, but it’s a big one. No one wants to end up 0-1, and kind of find out where your path goes from there.”

Both teams were tough to beat throughout the 2019 season, and their paths led to the B North semifinals, which Lawrence won 43-22. Both teams are expecting to be in the hunt again this season, and Friday night will give a sense for how big a factor in the conference race they will be.

Here’s a closer look at the Mt. Blue-Lawrence matchup:

When: 7 tonight

Where: Keyes Field, Fairfield

Mt. Blue coach Franzose on Lawrence: “It’s a little bit of your typical Lawrence team. They’re very good at running Wing-T, they love to live in the power alley. They can hold the ball and they can maintain drives and keep your defense on the field, and they can also have big play potential. We saw that in 2019, and I don’t think that changes.”

Lawrence coach Hersom on Mt. Blue: “Their execution on most of their offensive stuff is pretty impressive. They do quite a few different things, especially with the quarterback they have. He kind of controls the offense really well, and he’s an athlete, so he’s going to make plays.”

Lawrence defender Andrew Trombley gets a hold of Mt. Blue quarterback Hunter Meeks during a 2019 Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinal game at Keyes Field in Fairfield. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

Three keys for Mt. Blue:

• Pre-snap reads. Lawrence likes to disguise its coverage and pull some tricks with its defensive backs and linebackers, so Mt. Blue quarterback Jayden Meader will need to be sure he knows what to expect from the Bulldog defense so he’s not trying to get caught up after the ball is snapped.

“They do like to change up their coverages,” Franzose said. “They prowl a lot. … They keep you guessing.”

• Stick to the assignments. Franzose said he’s been paying particular attention to the buck sweep that Lawrence likes to run out of its Wing-T offense. With such a play, overpursuing and letting the windows get too big will make for a long night. Mt. Blue needs to make sure it stays disciplined and has the spaces filled so that the sweep doesn’t get downfield with a head of steam.

• Handle the field advantage. Keyes Field is always regarded as one of the toughest places to play, due to Lawrence’s fans and the tight confines of the field. Mt. Blue will need to make sure it matches the intensity and energy of a Bulldogs team that will be raring to go on its home turf.

Three keys for Lawrence:

• Contain Meader. In a scrimmage against Edward Little, Meader ran for nearly 85 yards and threw for around 175. The junior is a dual threat who, in Mt. Blue’s spread offense, can hurt the Bulldogs both with his legs and his arm.

“Defensively, for us, that’s going to be the thing. Try to make him uncomfortable, try to make him not real exciting in their offense,” Hersom said. “Keep contain on him so he doesn’t hurt us on the outside.”

• Keep the Cougars on their heels. Mt. Blue’s defense plays with aggression, and likes to find different ways with stunts and blitzes to free up pass rushers to get to the quarterback.  If the Bulldogs can make the Cougars pay with some long gains on the ground or through the air, their defense will start to hang back and play with more caution.

• Free up Andrew Trombley. Trombley was last seen in this series running for 223 yards on 20 carries in the 2019 playoff win. Now the Bulldogs’ quarterback, Trombley will likely be the focal point of the Cougars’ defensive approach. If Lawrence can spring him for some big runs, the Bulldogs could take command of this one early.

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