OAKLAND — The symmetry was downright eerie.

Two years after its last countable game was decided by an ill-fated 2-point conversion try, the Cony football team found itself in the same exact position in Saturday’s opener with Skowhegan. Down by one after a tying touchdown, with the game on the line — and a decision to make.

“We got the ball across midfield with about four minutes to go, and I thought ‘OK, if we get down here and score, are we going for two?'” coach B.L. Lippert said. “Aidan Coulombe actually asked me when the ball was at the 20, ‘If we score, are we going for two?’ I said ‘Yeah, we are.'”

Same situation, different ending. After Coulombe scored on an 8-yard run on fourth down, James Presti found Ashton Dennett for the conversion, giving Cony a lead that, after a missed Skowhegan field goal try, became a 36-35 win at Messalonskee High School.

“(That’s) just a really good win,” Lippert said. “That’s an excellent football team, with a lot of guys that played a lot two years ago. It was a sloppy game for both sides, a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed opportunities. But at the end of the day, it was just kind of a battle of wills. We happened to make a play.”

It was Cony’s first official game since its 21-20 overtime loss in the 2019 B North quarterfinals to Mt. Blue, during which the Rams scored on their first overtime possession, went for the win and were denied on a quarterback keeper.

It didn’t appear the Rams would face such a dilemma again when they fell behind Skowhegan 35-21 Saturday, but they fought back and took over at their own 29-yard line down 35-28 with 5:08 to play. A pair of passes from Presti to Dennett — who had a massive game with nine catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns — sandwiched around a 16-yard Coulombe run brought the ball to the Skowhegan 32, and seven plays later Cony faced a 4th-and-1 from the 8.

Coulombe got the call, carrying the ball left — and right into an incoming wall of River Hawks. Seemingly trapped, Coulombe cut right and found space to slip through for the touchdown with 1:39 to go.

“I knew I had to either get the first down or lose the game,” Coulombe said. “That’s what was at stake.”

That brought up decision time with the conversion. Lippert never hesitated.

Skowhegan quarterback Adam Savage gets the pass off under pressure from Cony defensive end Casey Mills during a football game Saturday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Savage’s pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Cony safety Sam Flannery. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s just not our style,” he said. “We have the utmost faith in our kids to make a play. … It’s never going to make me cautious. You have to coach to win the game.”

Lippert went with the connection that had come through all afternoon for the Rams, running a play to free Dennett up on the left side while Presti arced a pass right to him.

“I love it. Go for the win. Go for it all. That’s what we do,” said Presti, who finished 12-of-17 for 167 yards. “It’s like any other play. You’ve got to execute.”

Dennett, who had a 35-yard touchdown grab that brought Cony within a score at 35-28 in the third quarter, said he was excited to get the call.

“I love that pressure,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous at all. I had a big game, I knew I was in the zone, and everything was just focused on catching that ball no matter how I had to.”

There were still 99 seconds on the clock, and the River Hawks, who took over at the 44, got moving. Adam Savage directed Skowhegan’s no-huddle offense down the field, completing four of six passes to take the ball down to the Cony 17.

A 12-yard pass to Tate Jewell and a 4-yard pass to Quintcey McCray got the ball down to the 1, and after Savage spiked the ball the River Hawks tried an 18-yard field goal with under two seconds to go. The hold wasn’t clean, however, and the kick sailed just under the crossbar as time expired.

Skowhegan’s Adam Savage (10) is congratulated by teammates Tyler Longley, left, and Quintcey McCray after scoring a touchdown during a football game Saturday against Cony at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

After the game, coach Ryan Libby had a message for his players.

“Remember that feeling, how bad it hurts,” he said. “We’ve got to try to avoid it moving forward. We had plenty of chances to maybe make it not so close, and we just didn’t make it happen.”

Cony jumped out to a 21-6 first-quarter lead on the strength of a 44-yard pass to Dennett, a Sam Flannery 36-yard interception return for a score and a 6-yard pass to Dennett, but the River Hawks took command from there. Skowhegan scored the next 29 points, getting a 13-yard run from McCray, a 30-yard pass from Savage to Tyler Annis (five catches, 74 yards) and runs of 15 yards and 1 yard from Dennis Neal (22 carries, 124 yards).

Libby praised Neal’s yeoman work in the backfield, as well as the quarterback debut of Savage, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 275 yards. Hampton (six catches, 81 yards), Annis and McCray (four catches, 61 yards) were his top targets.

“The guys stayed in it, knew they could execute and got themselves right back into the game,” he said. “We’ve got good potential here. We’ve (just) got to fix some mistakes.”

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