The Cony football team runs the ball into the Gardiner defense during a preseason game Aug. 27, 2021 at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — It’s not high school football playoff time just yet, but an action-packed Week 7 slate could make one think otherwise. 

Four big games involving central Maine teams could shake up the standings in multiple conferences. There are two Class A-Class B crossover showdowns, the state’s oldest rivalry game and a mammoth eight-man clash all set for Friday night.

The annual Cony-Gardiner rivalry game highlights the schedule. The two teams, whose series dates to 1892, kick off Friday night at 7 at Hoch Field in Gardiner.

“You get this late in the season, and you get some great matchups,” said Cony head coach B.L. Lippert. “You have some great crossover games from the new scheduling, and you also have some traditional rivalries. It feels like it’s all been a buildup to this point.”

The Rams and Tigers have met 144 times, with Cony leading the all-time series 78-56-10. The Rams have won four straight in the rivalry, including a seven-on-seven contest with contact football sidelined in 2020 and a preseason matchup last year. 

This matchup, then, is the first countable matchup since 2019 — and it’s also one that has big postseason implications with Cony (4-2) looking to maintain the No. 2 spot in Class B North and sixth-ranked Gardiner (3-3) looking to position itself for a home playoff game.


“One of the things we looked at when we first got our schedule was, ‘Wow, this Cony game is for real,’” said Gardiner head coach Pat Munzing. “It’s not exhibition or seven-on-seven; it’s for real. They were looking forward to the chance to play them in a real kind of game for the first time in three years, and now it’s time.”

Two other Class B North teams, Skowhegan and Lawrence, are set to play crossover games against traditional Class A powerhouses. The River Hawks (6-0) will host reigning Class A champ Thornton Academy (4-2) in one of the season’s biggest crossover matchups, and the Bulldogs (3-3) will host Bonny Eagle (3-3) of Standish.

While the class crossover games won’t preview potential playoff matchups, it’s possible Cony and Gardiner could meet again in the postseason. However, potential postseason matchups are far from the minds of both coaches, who know wins over Class A blue bloods could give them big lifts in the Pine Tree Conference standings.

“The way we discuss things is that all games are big for us,” Lawrence head coach John Hersom said after last Friday’s 68-15 win over Mt. Blue. “We don’t really look ahead too much down the road until we’re right there in that last week. … (Our players are) not trying to focus too much on what’s down the road — not yet.”

In the eight-man ranks, Waterville (4-1), which is coming off a 26-8 win over Morse in a rematch of last year’s Large-School North title game, will now travel to face another contender in Mt. Ararat (5-1). The Eagles have won five straight games since an opening-night 8-6 loss to the Shipbuilders.

Brunswick linebacker Jimmy Cook, right, gets a hold of Gardiner wide receiver Cole Brann during a Sept. 23 Class B North football game at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Other notable games Friday night include Winslow (3-3) traveling to Hermon (4-2) for a Class C North battle and Maine Central Institute (2-4) hosting Foxcroft (4-1) in a C-D crossover game.



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Speaking of MCI, there might not be a team in Maine whose second half of the regular season differs greatly from its first. That’s good news for the Huskies (2-4), who have won two straight. 

In opening the season with losses to Hermon, Oceanside, Hampden Academy and Oak Hill, MCI was outscored by an average of 37.0 points per game. Yet after losing decisively in all four of those games, the Huskies have since been on the other side of blowout wins against Old Town (56-20) and Belfast (36-0).

“Every year, we try to see what we’re good at, play to our strengths a little bit and then settle in defensively,” said head coach Tom Bertrand. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that early in the season, but we’ve been able to settle in both offensively and defensively these last two games.”


Waterville Senior High School’s Tyson Smith (38) blocks a punt by Morse High School’s Calin Gould (1) in Waterville last Saturday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

In Week 5 against Old Town, MCI got more than 200 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns from quarterback Kyle Hall to earn its first victory. Hall excelled for the Huskies once again in Week 6, passing for a touchdown and running for another as MCI rolled past Belfast.

“Kyle did some moving around between quarterback and receiver for us as we had some personnel changes, but he’s settled in really nicely at that quarterback position,” Bertrand said. “He has a lot of confidence and a lot of leadership, and those are two things he’s shown a lot of these past few weeks.”

After numerous mental mistakes and penalties over the first four weeks, Bertrand said, MCI made far fewer miscues in the victories over Old Town and Belfast. Yet the Huskies will still need to, in their coach’s own words, “stop shooting ourselves in the foot” as they face Foxcroft and Winslow — two teams that will present much stiffer challenges.

The Huskies will don their pink football socks and gloves as part of their annual Play 4 the Cure game, a tradition dating to 2013 that raises money for cancer awareness.


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While most Maine high school football teams will be playing regular season games later into the month, there’s one division that will be wrapping up that portion of the schedule this weekend.

It’s the last week of the regular season for the eight man Small-School division, which will see its seven-game schedule conclude with the upcoming games. The playoffs will then begin next week with all 16 teams competing in regional quarterfinal contests (no byes to the semifinals).

Although Maranacook is the reigning Small-School South champ, it has received plenty of competition this season from Mountain Valley (6-0), Dirigo (5-1) and Old Orchard Beach (4-2). The Black Bears, currently fourth, will take on Sacopee Valley (1-5) on Friday night in Hiram.

In the North, defending state champion Dexter (6-0) — which averages 55.3 points a game — has emerged as the team to beat once again. Other contenders in the division include Stearns (5-1), Mattanawcook Academy (4-2) and Bucksport (4-2).

Locally, Mount View (1-5) will take on Houlton (1-5) in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon in Thorndike. That matchup will determine the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds in the Small-School North division.

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