PORTLAND — Twenty-four hours before kickoff, Ryan Libby had the Skowhegan football team practice something he wanted to run on the final play of the Class B championship game.

At the end of practice Friday evening, Skowhegan practiced the play every head coach dreams of being able to run in a state title game. It was exactly what the River Hawks would end up doing in a 20-14 victory over Portland on Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“You go in the night before a game and do pre-game, and the last thing we do at practice is run the victory offense and take a knee,” said Libby, Skowhegan’s head coach of five seasons. “You tell the kids, ‘This is how we’re going to end it tomorrow, too.’”

It was a kneel-down 44 years in the making for Skowhegan, which claimed its seventh state title overall and first since 1978. It followed a physical game that saw the River Hawks take a number of lumps and bruises in a hard-fought game on their opponents’ home field.

Skowhegan quarterback Adam Savage ran for 154 yards and a score on 26 carries, completed 8 of 9 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns and had two interceptions on defense. The senior quarterback completed six of his passes to Tyler Annis for 134 yards and a score in the win.

Savage ran wild on Skowhegan’s opening drive but had two long runs negated by holding flags. Yet the senior quarterback kept it going on the River Hawks’ second drive, racking up 54 yards on the ground before hitting Annis for an 11-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the second quarter.


South top-seed Portland (8-4) responded immediately as Kennedy Charles scored on a 44-yard run that cut Skowhegan’s lead to 7-6. Although the Bulldogs pinned the River Hawks deep on the ensuing kickoff, Savage would find Annis for an 85-yard pass to the 1-yard line before running it in himself to make it 14-6.

“They were playing man defense, and (Tyler) is really quick and was running some nice route combinations that had them mixed up,” Savage said. “We had that post running across the field and the wheel coming in behind it, and it just worked out perfectly.”

An impressive kickoff return by Portland then set up the Bulldogs inside the Skowhegan 25, but Savage intercepted Charles near the goal line. Two drives later, he found Quintcey McCray for a 40-yard touchdown pass with 8 seconds left in the half to give the North No. 2 seed River Hawks (10-2) a 20-6 lead going into halftime.

After Skowhegan punted to open the second half, Portland mounted a long drive to pull back within one score. On fourth-and-2 from the 35, Charles found Harry Rubin for a 56-yard pass to set up first-and-goal, and the senior quarterback then scored from 5 yards out two plays later to make it 20-14 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.

Following a Skowhegan punt, Portland again drove into River Hawks territory behind three strong runs from Charles. But Savage would intercept Charles on third-and-9 from the Skowhegan 34 before kneeling out the clock several plays later to end the state title drought.

“We knew they weren’t going to give up. … We had to settle down and take it one play at a time and one stop at a time,” Skowhegan senior lineman Collin LePage said. “We just said, ‘Keep going, keep going; we’ll get it, we’ll get it.’ We got the one play we needed, and it was game over from there.”


Charles, who finished with 155 rushing yards on 27 carries for Portland, certainly had his moments for the Bulldogs on the ground. With the exception of Portland’s opening touchdown run, Skowhegan was able to limit him from the big plays that had carried the Bulldogs to the Class B South crown.

Adam Savage of Skowhegan breaks away for a large gain in the first quarter against Portland in the Class B football state final. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“We knew we couldn’t stop him altogether, but we had to contain him and certainly try to eliminate the big plays,” Libby said. “For the most part, we did that. He had that touchdown run and that great throw that set up their second score, but for the most part, our defense did what it did all year.”

It was a night in which a number of Skowhegan players had to tough out in-game injuries. LePage hurt his ankle on the River Hawks’ second touchdown of the evening, and Savage was down on the field for a few moments after a knock in the second half. 

Savage, though, got back on his feet, raised his arms to pump up the Skowhegan crowd and was back on the field in a matter of plays. LePage was limping noticeably as the second half began, but he, too, barely missed a snap the rest of the way in his final game in a River Hawks uniform.

“I was just trying to keep it from stiffening up on me so I could get through the game,” said LePage, who stayed active between plays in an effort to alleviate the ankle pain. “I’m a senior, and this was my last game, so I wasn’t coming out of this one, I can tell you that.”

The emotions were overwhelming for Skowhegan players, many of whom had tears in their eyes after the game. Brandon Wyman crouched down and stared at the ground in joyous disbelief after the celebrations were complete. Hunter McEwen’s eye black was streaming down his face as he was the first to touch the first Gold Ball the program has seen in 44 years.

That number, 44, had added meaning to McEwen and a number of other Skowhegan players. It was the jersey number worn by John Hovey IV, who played with many of the current River Hawks at the youth level before passing away in an ATV accident in 2019. This win, McEwen said, was for Hovey.

“He was one of my best friends, and to get out here and get a Gold Ball, it was a personal goal of mine, and I know a lot of the other guys on this team wanted to do that,” McEwen said. “To win it in his name, it’s something I don’t think I can describe.”

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