Cony receiver Ashton Dennett hangs onto the ball as Skowhegan defensive back Adam Savage tries to knock it loose during a football game Sept. 4 in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Even in the last season of football before the pandemic arrived, something was missing.

The Cony and Brunswick football teams didn’t face each other that 2019 season, due to crossover rules that forced Class B teams to play a Class A opponent. It was the first time since 2004 that the B North and Pine Tree Conference rivals didn’t play each other, and considering that both teams finished the regular season with an undefeated record, meant a compelling, playoff-altering matchup was missing from its normal place on the schedule.

The rivalry is back on this weekend, however, and both coaches are looking forward to seeing each other on the field again.

“I absolutely love playing against Brunswick. I have a ton of respect for coach (Dan) Cooper and his staff, they’ve been together for a long, long time, and we’ve had some great showdowns,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “There’s this mutual respect. Obviously we want to beat the other one, but they do things the right way down there.”

Cooper himself made the same point.

“Since we’ve joined Class B, it’s been us two right at the top just about every year,” he said. “It’s been a good rivalry game. It’s a lot of fun to play them. They throw the ball a lot, and it’s something we look forward to competing against every year.”

Before missing 2019, the teams saw plenty of each other in 2017 and ’18. Cony (1-0) won both regular season matchups, but Brunswick (1-1) won the playoff rematch as the lower seed both years.

With three years having passed and the player turnover that’s taken place in that time, Lippert said the emotions have been eased.

“I think too much time has passed,” he said. “I don’t think there are a lot of kids that remember the 2018 season, they were freshmen when that season happened anyway.”

Cooper, though, said the memories haven’t faded completely, particularly on the coaching side.

“Any time we get together with Cony, for us, it’s a pretty good rivalry,” he said. “I’m sure they remember those losses in the playoffs, but I remember a couple we’ve lost up there, too. … It just seems like we always find our way to Cony, or Cony’s got to get through us, we’ve got to get through them.”

Cony’s Ashton Dennet (2) makes a reception over Gardiner’s Cody Dingwell (21) on Aug. 27 at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Here’s a closer look at the Brunswick-Cony matchup:

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Where: Messalonskee High School Field, Oakland

Brunswick coach Cooper on Cony: “They fly around on defense pretty good. I see some athletic kids who always seem to pursue the football and get hats to the ball pretty well. … They’re going to spread the field and make you defend the whole field. If you give their quarterback time, it’s hard to cover the whole field like that.”

Cony coach Lippert on Brunswick: “They’re going to run Wing-T and run the ball and sprinkle in the pass. … (It’s) typical Brunswick, really good athletes that run to the ball well on the defensive side, they’ll bring some pressure. Offensively, maybe not the typical size, maybe they’re not quite as big up front, but (they have) athletic guys who can pull.”

Three keys for Brunswick:

Get to the quarterback. This would be the case in any matchup with Cony’s pass-happy offense, but that’s particularly true this time around, as the Rams will be starting sophomore Davyn Flynn with James Presti out with a broken thumb. The more the Dragons get home, the easier it is to cover Cony receivers, and the more likely it is that Flynn’s inexperience could catch up with him.

Have a plan for Ashton Dennett. The senior receiver was Presti’s security blanket, making 14 catches for 206 yards and four touchdowns between Cony’s preseason win over Gardiner and opening victory against Skowhegan. Whether it’s by trusting a corner with him 1-on-1, bracketing him or doubling him, the Dragons have to make him the focal point of coverage.

Don’t let Casey Mills and Jack Morrill take over. The two defensive linemen are high-energy players who are always around the ball and love to disrupt the plays. If they’re not accounted for, they could blow up running plays in the backfield and prevent Brunswick from getting into a rhythm on the ground.

Three keys for Cony:

Help Flynn get comfortable. Flynn will be the first sophomore to start for Cony behind center since Riley Geyer in 2018. Back then, the Rams called a variety of short passes to help him along, and Geyer went 13-of-14 for 183 yards in a 42-0 win. Taking pressure off of Flynn with high-percentage throws and not asking him to do too much too soon could serve Cony well again.

Be strong up front. Brunswick brings back a key running back in Dalton Cooper, who will join brother Weston Cooper in the Dragons backfield. This allows Colby Nadeau to go back from fullback to center, and means the Brunswick running game is at full strength. Cony has to stand firm against the ground attack, or it could be in trouble early.

Be the more disciplined team. In both recent playoff defeats to Brunswick, costly turnovers and penalties sank the Rams. The teams are different now, but that result won’t be if Cony isn’t making the Dragons earn everything they get without extra possessions or short fields.

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