Cony wide receiver Ashton Dennett signals for a first down after catching a pass over Gardiner defender Cody Dingwell (21) during an Aug. 27 game at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — When you see Ashton Dennett standing in his Cony football uniform, it’s hard to tell right away that you’re looking at one of the best receivers in Class B North.

“He’s not going to scare anybody getting off the bus, I know that,” Rams coach B.L. Lippert said.

Keep watching, though, and it starts to make sense. You see the deft moves to get open, the ability to use all of his 5-foot-10, 140-pound build to get to the ball in the air, and the hands to pluck it out and pull it in.

Cony wasn’t sure what it had in the senior wideout coming into this season. The Rams soon found out — and one by one, their opponents are starting to as well.

“He’s been the go-to guy thus far, and to be quite honest, he’s been a little bit of a surprise,” Lippert said. “He’s really become a viable option in the pass game. Something we always count on is having a couple of guys that can make some plays, and Ashton’s filled that role for us quite nicely here early on.”

Dennett didn’t have a catch as a freshman and sophomore, but he’s been making up for lost time as a senior. After two games he has 14 catches for 325 yards and five touchdowns, and he also snagged five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown in the annual rivalry game with Gardiner.


“He’s worked his butt off,” Cony senior defensive end and tight end Casey Mills said. “He deserves everything that he’s getting right now. All the touchdowns, every picture in the newspaper. He’s really worked for it.”

“It’s awesome, just knowing I have a role and everything I’ve worked for is finally coming to (be),” Dennett said. “I feel good. I just feel like every game I go into, I’m one of the better players and I feel like I can go off that and do well.”

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

Dennett’s the latest in a long line of receivers to flourish in Cony’s pass-happy scheme, but while Dennett grew up hearing those names — players like Chandler Shostak and Jordan Roddy and Reed Hopkins — it was looking like a long shot that he would get the opportunity to join them. He started playing football in first grade but has been undersized his whole career, and he got hardly any playing time in middle school due to his slight frame.

“Every day, there were times when I was like ‘Do I give up, or not?'” he said. “And I just realized something I can’t do is give up football, and that no matter what I was going to do, I was going to get better and utilize how small I was.”

The playing time wasn’t there his first two years of high school, but Dennett worked as often as he could with standout receiver and cornerback Adrian Larrabee on technique, and tried to get whatever extra practice time he could.

“From the time he entered our program, he was really interested in learning how to run routes,” Lippert said. “He’d stay after practice. … I’m over here putting bags away and talking to the coaches, and he’s over there as a 105-pound freshman working on running routes with some guys.”


Dennett kept up the work even after COVID hit, and continued to improve his technique during 7-on-7. By the time the summer came around, he had become Cony’s newest go-to guy.

“I think he did that early in the offseason,” Lippert said. “He had a really good summer. … In both of the camps that he attended, he really showed that he could play. He won best receiver at our camp in Augusta and really made a name for himself amongst his peers around the state. They’re like ‘Who’s this skinny kid from Cony? He’s tough to cover.'”

And there’s the strength of Dennett’s game. He’s not a burner, he’s not lightning quick, and he’s certainly not someone who can box a defender out for a pass. But a receiver’s job is to get open and catch the ball, and Dennett’s made those two skills his specialties.

Cony receiver Ashton Dennett reaches out to put the ball into end zone for a touchdown as Skowhegan defensive back Adam Savage drags him down during a Sept. 4 game at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I’ve been around the game so long, I know the open spots and it helps me get open,” he said. “At the line of scrimmage, I’m always reading somewhat they’re going to do, if they’re going to press me, if they’re going to play zone or what they’re doing. I just stay ready, and I think about what I’m going to do before they think about what they’re going to do.”

“He’s really shown the ability to go across the middle and make some catches, and play the ball in the air,” Lippert added. “That’s really, I think, his greatest strength, his ability to kind of contort his body and show body control.”

So far this season, however, Dennett has shown a confidence to go with those physical abilities. He caught nine passes for 166 yards and three scores against Skowhegan, coming up big time and again as the Rams tried to keep pace with the River Hawks.


“I love it, I love every second of it,” he said. “If I have to go out and make the big catch, I’ll do whatever I can.”

For the game-deciding two-point conversion, Lippert called a play to go Dennett’s way, and he got open and snagged the pass for the crucial points in what ended up a 36-35 Cony win.

“He portrays this confidence in himself that I think is almost infectious,” Lippert said. “‘Yeah, I’ll get open, I’ll make that play.’ It’s good to see.”

It took Dennett a while to arrive. Now that he has, he’s making sure to soak it in.

“I knew I’d have a big season, but I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” he said. “It just feels good, knowing whatever I can do is helping my team win.”

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