Cony’s Dom Napolitano runs for a 48-yard touchdown during a Oct. 14 game against Gardiner at Hoch FIeld in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — For Cony football, Week 8 usually means a showdown with rival Gardiner. This season, though, is different.

Instead of following last week’s 27-12 win over the Tigers with a playoff game, the Rams will take on Falmouth in the regular season finale. It’s an unusual feeling for Cony, which, for many years, went into playoff mode after the rivalry game.

“Usually, it’s kind of like the Daytona 500 of the high school football season whenever you play Gardiner,” said Cony head coach B.L. Lippert. “You kick it into gear against your big rival, then you hope that you do what you need to do to prepare with the playoffs looming the next week. This time, we have another game.”

Even if the matchup with Falmouth isn’t the playoff showdown Cony sometimes gets after the Gardiner game, it still has a big-time feel to it as two 5-2 teams meet at Fuller Field. Home-field advantage — potentially all the way through the Class B North playoffs — will be on the line as the Rams and Navigators look to carry momentum into late October.

Cony’s victory over Gardiner amidst a torrential downpour last week marked its fourth straight victory after a 1-2 start. The win was a staple of what the Rams have been all season: potent (but far from perfect) on offense and solid (but far from impenetrable) on defense.

The run began in Week 4 as Cony earned arguably its most impressive win of the season: a 34-10 victory over reigning Class B North champion Windham. That win and a Week 2 victory over Massabesic that’s looked more impressive with each passing week have helped vault the Rams all the way into a first-place tie with Skowhegan.


“Looking at the standings and seeing that we’re No. 1, I think a lot of our confidence is going up,” said senior lineman Jaden Geyer. “We were thinking we weren’t going to do that well this year (after the tough start), but after winning a couple of games at home, we’re striving to win even more.”

Falmouth wide receiver Miles Gay celebrates as he scores a touchdown in the first half of a Sept. 2 game against Cheverus. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The ensuing turnaround has not been unexpected of Cony, which has been a consistent PTC contender since dropping from Class A in 2013. Now, the Rams get a Falmouth team that, after struggling in its first two years in Class B North in 2019 and 2021, is back to the success it had from 2013-18 in the South (43-18 over six consecutive winning seasons).

Speed at the skill positions has played a big role in getting the Navigators back on track. Falmouth has one of the state’s fastest players in school 100-meter dash record-holder Finn Caxton-Smith, as well as speedy receivers in Lucas Dilworth and Miles Gay and two quick backs in Ali Smith and Indi Backman. 

“We’re going to have to find a way to contain their speed,” Lippert said. “That’s what really jumps out at you on the screen when you watch them on film — they have some guys who can really run. We’ve also got to match their physicality; they have a couple guys up front who are big, physical kids.”

Indeed, Falmouth has the size up front to complement its quickness in the backfield and out wide. Will Gale, one of those “big, physical kids” Lippert mentioned, has been a force all season at 6-foot-4, 305 pounds. Rocco Mancini, an All-PTC guard in 2021, is another standout on the lines.

The Navigators, though, will add yet another behemoth up front this week: Matt Phillips, a 6-4, 295-pound lineman who will play for the first time this year after missing the first seven games with an injury. Starting quarterback Peyton Mitchell, whom head coach John Fitzsimmons said will be a game-time decision, could also make his return.


Cony’s Dom Napolitano, left, gets away from Gardiner’s Zach Kristan and returns a fumble 60 yards for a TD during an Oct. 14 game in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We have a roster of 35, but when you look at the number of kids playing varsity football, it’s really about 15,” said Fitzsimmons, whose team has played Caxton-Smith at quarterback since Mitchell suffered an injury in Week 4. “When you get guys back or lose them, that can be the difference between being a top-flight team or a good team.”

With Cony likely to be without running back Caden Schleis-Hooyman, who aggravated a high-ankle sprain against Gardiner, Eli Klaiber will take on an added role for the Rams in the run game. Schleis-Hooyman’s absence could also mean more quarterback keepers from Dom Napolitano, who ran the ball 24 times last week.

Defensively, the Rams frequently mixed things up this year, — and they’ve done so pretty well. Executing a few tweaks to their defensive scheme as well as a few in-game adjustments will be essential to shutting down a Falmouth team that’s tough up front and can hurt Cony in space with its speed.

“Every Monday, we talk about what we’re doing for defense; we’re switching up the keys, switching up everything,” Geyer said. “Against Gardiner on Friday, we changed it up and created a different pass-rush group. … (Our coaches) create a good defense for our group, and with our players, we’re able to make plays.”

Cony could still potentially earn the No. 1 seed in Class B North with a win, though the Rams would likely need a Skowhegan loss against Windham to do so. Falmouth could finish as high as second with a win or as low as fourth with a loss and an Eagles victory over the River Hawks.

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