SKOWHEGAN — If you score a touchdown against the Skowhegan River Hawks, they’re going to take it personally.

A week ago, Skowhegan put up 47 unanswered points after Bangor scored the game’s opening touchdown. On Friday, after Gardiner mounted a 15-play scoring drive in the second quarter, the River Hawks cranked it up a notch and didn’t give the Tigers an inch the rest of the way in a 32-6 victory.

“Our defense has been great for us all year, and it really is like a personal offense to us when we let one up,” said Skowhegan head coach Ryan Libby. “We were sloppy and had some penalties early in the game, but we really bucked down after they scored and said, ‘No more.’”

It took just 10 seconds for Skowhegan (5-0) to answer after Gardiner (3-2) cut the lead to 12-6 as Quintcey McCray took the ensuing kickoff to the house to restore the two-score lead. The River Hawks then gashed the Tigers through the air to turn the game into another comfortable victory and stay undefeated.

Skowhegan scored the only points of the first quarter just 19 seconds after kickoff as Hunter McEwen recovered a fumble and then scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to put the River Hawks up 6-0. Two possessions later, Tyler Annis capped off a 21-play, 76-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run as the River Hawks doubled their lead.

Skowhegan’s Hunter McEwen (32) celebrates his fumble recovery against Gardiner in the first half of a football game Friday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Gardiner (3-2) mounted a great response to Skowhegan’s second touchdown as it went 69 yards in 15 plays and made it 12-6 on a 4-yard score from Colton Dube with 2:48 left in the half. Yet the River Hawks immediately swung momentum back in their favor as McCray took the kickoff 81 yards for a score to make it 19-6.


“He’s a great athlete, and we were trying to kick it away from him, but it just skipped the wrong way,” said Gardiner head coach Pat Munzing. “It’s just one of those things where you’re immediately like, ‘Oh, no.’ That’s what great players do: They make plays, and sometimes, they do that even when you try to keep it out of their hands.”

Skowhegan immediately forced a three-and-out from Gardiner to end the half, and the River Hawks then made it 26-6 to open the second as quarterback Adam Savage found McCray for a 24-yard score. After forcing another punt from the Tigers, Skowhegan put up the game’s final points as Brenden Dunlap found Tyler Annis on a 27-yard trick play with 4:23 left in the third quarter.

The game marked Savage’s return to his role as starting quarterback after missing three weeks with an injury. Dunlap had done a more-than-admirable job filling in for the 6-foot-4 senior during his absence, and both players throwing touchdown passes on back-to-back drives, Savage said, was only fitting.

“Me and Brenden are super tight; he came in as my backup quarterback last year, and we got super close,” said Savage, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 96 yards in the win. “We have a good connection between us, and we always support each other no matter what.”

Gardiner’s Wyatt Chadwick (18) dives for extra yards after being tackled by Skowhegan’s Collin LePage (56) and Brandon Wyman (20) in the first half of a football game Friday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Annis added three catches for 72 yards and ran the ball 10 times for 33 yards. The River Hawks also got 39 yards on six carries from Dunlap, 31 yards on eight carries from McEwen and 17 yards on two carries from Savage. Ayden Brusa had an interception for Skowhegan, and Kyle LePage and Kaden Salley each recorded sacks.

Chadwick was 10 of 22 for 108 yards passing and ran the ball seven times for 24 yards for Gardiner, which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Zach Kristian had five catches for 69 yards for the Tigers, who also got 56 yards on 12 carries from Dube.


“Like I told my team after the game, we have some great things to take away here,” Munzing said. “That Skowhegan defense is the toughest we’ve played all year, and we were able to move the ball on them there in the first half. We made some mistakes, but they’re things I think we can clean up.”

The 26-point win was only the second-closest game of the season for Skowhegan behind the River Hawks’ 41-21 victory over Lawrence back in Week 1. Skowhegan has now outscored its opponents 183-34, allowing just 13 points in four games since that season-opening win over the Bulldogs.

The going is about to get a lot tougher for Skowhegan, which will face a pair of Class A opponents in Edward Little next Friday and reigning state champ Thornton Academy the following week. The River Hawks will then end the regular season against reigning regional champion Windham, which improved to 4-1 Friday with a win over Falmouth.

“We knew ahead of time that the end of the year was going to be some tough football, but we welcome it,” Libby said. “You want those tough games to get ready going into the playoffs to get yourselves tuned up, and that’s what we’re going to get.”

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