SKOWHEGAN — Teams tabbed as preseason favorites usually have that status for good reason. The hype, however, has its drawbacks.

The Skowhegan football team — the preseason pick to win Class B North — absorbed every opponents best shot this fall. Furthermore, the River Hawks also faced a mountain of pressure to snap a 44-year title drought. 

Skowhegan (9-2) will get that chance Saturday when it meets Portland (8-3) in the Class B title game at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.

“Knowing there’s a target on your back, you have to work extra hard because everyone’s coming after you,” said senior lineman Kyle LePage. “Every week, you know you’re going to have to bring it and play your best.”

Skowhegan lived up to its lofty expectations by edging Falmouth 28-20 on Nov. 11 to win the regional title. Now, it’s oh-so-close to winning its first state title since 1978, when it sank Gardiner 9-6 in the Class B final.

The signs of a breakout 2022 campaign were apparent last season, when Skowhegan squad finished 5-5 despite sporting a relatively young roster. The River Hawks’ season came to an end with a 7-6 loss to eventual Class B North champion Windham in the regional semifinals.


Skowhegan, as was evident in that tight playoff loss, was a better team than its record indicated with the five wins coming by an average of 44.6 points and the five losses coming by an average of 7.4. With every key player save for receiver Marcus Hampton returning, The River Hawks had every reason to believe they could be a contender in 2022. 

“We’ve been working for this for years, and we came into the year kind of knowing that this was our season to do it,” LePage said. “We have a lot of people behind us, and with what we had and what we did last year, we knew we could make a run and that this was our shot.”

Skowhegan made it look easy en route to a 6-0 start, outscoring opponents by an average of 31.7 points per game. It looked as if nothing could stop the River Hawks, who were bulldozing the Pine Tree Conference.

The Skowhegan football team works through a play during a practice Tuesday in Skowhegan. The River Hawks will play for the Class B title on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Portland High in Portland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Yet a few late-season setbacks bumped Skowhegan to the No. 2 seed in the B North playoffs. The River Hawks faltered on both sides of the ball in a 47-7 defeat to Thornton Academy in Week 7, and although they were much better on defense the following week against Windham, the offense sputtered in a 14-7 loss.

A two-game skid coming just as playoff time approached could have easily made some teams panic. There was none to be found in Skowhegan, which reverted to its form from the first six games to win three straight and the B North crown. 

“Those first two weeks of the playoffs, you could tell we were (getting our rhythm back),” said senior wide receiver Tyler Annis. “We knew we were a good team, and we just had to play like one. It seemed like we were firing on all cylinders and everything was there.”


While there’s a bit more pressure in trying to end a long state championship drought, players say they’ve been able to block out the noise.

Skowhegan quarterback, Adam Savage holds the ball during a practice Tuesday in Skowhegan. The River Hawks will play for the Class B title on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Portland High in Portland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We’ve been pretty good at not letting those expectations get to our head, really,” said Hunter McEwen, a senior running back and linebacker. “We’ve focused on playing how we can play and to the extent that everyone has known we can play all along.”

The key to Skowhegan realizing its potential, head coach Ryan Libby said, has been its dominance in the trenches. The River Hawks have won some tough battles up front on both sides of the ball throughout the playoffs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

“It really comes down to our guys up front,” Libby said. “That offensive line is just getting it done for us right now, and that’s allowed our running backs to get some big yards and for (quarterback Adam Savage) to be a big part of our game plan. I think all of our guys would tell you that.” 

Next up is a showdown with Portland, which has not lost to a Class B opponent this season. The Bulldogs, who have won seven straight, will be Skowhegan’s toughest test since the Week 7 showdown with Thornton Academy. 

To bring home a Gold Ball, it will take more of the high-level execution — and ability to filter out the noise — that Skowhegan showed in November.

“Our seniors, we’ve put in all the work all season to play in the biggest game of our lives,” LePage said. “We’ve done everything to get here, and hopefully, we can put the work in and come out with a win on Saturday.”

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