Skowhegan’s Hunter McEwen (32) celebrates his fumble recovery against Gardiner in the first half of a Sept. 30 game in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — A state championship game appearance for the Skowhegan football team was something that would have shocked few people at the start of the season — but the River Hawks’ road there was far from linear.

Skowhegan’s 2022 season saw a dominant start, a struggle to end the regular season and the ultimate righting of the ship come playoff time. It’s a path to states that, while certainly imperfect, has the River Hawks playing for their first Gold Ball in 44 years at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Portland at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

For every championship team, there’s a story of how it got there from the first warm game night in September to the frigid playoff games in late fall. Here’s a look back at how Skowhegan made its run to the doorstep of the crown. 

Week 1: Skowhegan 41, Lawrence 21

A matchup between Skowhegan, ranked first in the Pine Tree Conference preseason poll, and Lawrence, ranked second, was billed as one of the biggest games of the season. It lived up to the hype early, although in the end the River Hawks would pull away for a statement win.

After the Bulldogs responded to two early River Hawks touchdowns with a score of their own, Skowhegan reeled off 21 straight points to take a four-score lead early in the second half. The River Hawks would lead by at least 20 the rest of the way in a victory that saw them limit standout running back Parker Higgins to just 51 rushing yards on 11 carries.


Week 2: Skowhegan 35, Brewer 0

Whereas Skowhegan’s Week 1 victory had some early competitive moments, the River Hawks’ rout of Brewer the following week was never in doubt. Skowhegan scored five touchdowns in the first half before the junior varsity unit fought the Witches to a draw in the second.

With first-string quarterback Adam Savage injured, backup Brenden Dunlap entered for what would be the first of three straight starts. He passed for two touchdowns in the one half of play. Skowhegan held Brewer to just 57 yards of total offense.

Skowhegan’s Quintcey McCray (3) rushes for extra yards against Lawrence during a Sept. 2 game in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Week 3: Skowhegan 28, Cony 0

Skowhegan’s shutout win over Cony in mid-September is much more impressive with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, the Rams were a bit of an unknown in Class B North, having lost handily to still-unbeaten Class A Oxford Hills and beaten a Massabesic team that had not yet proven itself to be a B South contender.

Yet Cony, which rallied for six straight wins after this game, would go on to win the PTC B regular season title — and the River Hawks simply bulldozed the Rams in the trenches. It’s the kind of game Skowhegan head coach Ryan Libby wanted to see his team revert back to when the River Hawks would go through their late-season struggles.


“We knew we would be tested against Cony because they’re a good offensive team, and we were up to the challenge,” Libby said. “There’s that sort of cliché that defense wins championships, and that holds true for us, for sure. We wanted to get back to that (later in the season).”

Week 4: Skowhegan 47, Bangor 7

Host Bangor scored first in the Week 4 matchup at Cameron Stadium to put Skowhegan behind in a game for the first time all season. That would be about the only bad moment all night for the River Hawks, who would respond with seven straight touchdowns to secure their most lopsided victory of the year.

Week 5: Skowhegan 32, Gardiner 6

A potent team loaded with athletes, Gardiner kept it close in just about every game it played this season — except when it traveled to Skowhegan to face the River Hawks on Sept. 30.

Skowhegan didn’t run away with it early as Gardiner mounted an impressive drive to pull within 12-6 late in the first half. But the River Hawks immediately responded with a long kickoff-return touchdown from Quintcey McCray, and from there, the Tigers failed to muster anything else offensively as Skowhegan rolled to a four-score win.


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

Week 6: Skowhegan 49, Edward Little 14

In the second of their three matchups against Class A opposition this year, the River Hawks again won in blowout fashion as they produced what would be their highest regular season point total in the five-score victory over Edward Little. The win gave Skowhegan its first 6-0 start since 2008.

Skowhegan’s Adam Savage (10) leaps over the Lawrence defensive line for the two-point conversion during a Class B North semifinal game on Nov. 4 Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Week 7: Thornton Academy 47, Skowhegan 7

Senior night festivities saw Skowhegan break out the orange uniforms against reigning Class A champion Thornton Academy. The switch proved to be a bad omen as the River Hawks, who had allowed 48 points in their previous six games combined, gave up nearly that many against the Trojans.

Skowhegan had some success in the pass game with Savage throwing for 151 yards, but four turnovers limited the River Hawks to the lone touchdown on the evening. Thornton Academy took advantage of the miscues as it scored touchdowns on six of its first seven offensive possessions.


Week 8: Windham 14, Skowhegan 7

Skowhegan got back on track defensively following the Thornton Academy loss as it held reigning Class B North champion Windham to just two scores in the regular season finale. However, the offensive struggles continued, and Windham scored the lone touchdown in the second half to hand Skowhegan its second straight loss.

The loss saw Skowhegan drop to second in Class B North as Cony, which topped Falmouth the same evening to also finish 6-2, jumped the River Hawks for the No. 1 seed. Skowhegan needed to regroup — and fast.

Skowhegan’s Brandon Wyman (20) gets tackled by Thornton Academy’s Brent Poulin (59) during an Oct. 15 game in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Week 9: Skowhegan 42, Brewer 6 (Class B North quarterfinals)

Instead of continuing to spiral, Skowhegan returned to form just in time as it waxed Brewer to open the regional playoffs. Just as they did in Week 2, the River Hawks took a 35-0 halftime lead over the Witches en route to an easy win that put an emphatic end to their two-game slide.

Even if Brewer was far from the stature of Thornton Academy or Windham, Libby could still feel Skowhegan return to form in the win. It would become, he added, a victory that fueled the three-game winning streak that’s put the River Hawks on the verge of a Gold Ball. 


“Our down part of that cycle happened at the end of the year with those losses, and we needed to come back to our identity a little bit,” Libby said. “We really came out guns firing against Brewer and kept it rolling from there.”

Week 10: Skowhegan 66, Lawrence 48 (Class B North semifinals)

Skowhegan’s offense exploded for its biggest scoring output in at least 20 years in a rematch of the Week 1 meeting with Lawrence in Fairfield. As it turned out, the River Hawks would need just about every bit of it.

Behind a monster game from Adam Savage (462 yards and seven touchdowns), Skowhegan won a shootout with Lawrence to earn a Class B North title game berth. It was a showdown in which the River Hawks knew they would need points every time they had the ball, something they did in scoring touchdowns on all nine offensive possessions.

“We knew our defense wasn’t going to get a stop, so we had to score every time we had it,” said senior lineman Kyle LePage. “It was just one of those games, but our offense got the job done. That’s pretty much what it came down to.”

Skowhegan celebrates after beating Falmouth to win the Class B North football championship on Nov. 11 at Lewiston High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Week 11: Skowhegan 28, Falmouth 20 (Class B North championship)

After being unstoppable on offense against Lawrence, Skowhegan trailed for most of the first half after struggling on that side of the ball early against Falmouth. The Navigators took a backward lateral for an offensive score four minutes into the game before scoring again midway through the second quarter to make it 12-0.

From there, though, it was all River Hawks. Grounding out yardage little by little, Skowhegan scored four unanswered rushing touchdowns, all courtesy of Savage. Falmouth then scored and converted the 2-point try with a minute left, but the River Hawks smothered the ensuing onside kick to become regional champs.


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