Adam Savage of Skowhegan breaks away for a large gain in the first quarter against Portland in the Class B football state final on Nov. 19. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

SKOWHEGAN — It began, as always, as a high school football season with high expectations across the region. 

It ended with mid-November runs and big dreams being realized — and for one central Maine team, that run was golden.

Skowhegan began the 2022 season with the second-longest state championship drought in all of central Maine at 44 years. That drought came to an end last week as the River Hawks downed Portland 20-14 to bring home the Class B title.

“Coming into flag football when you’re a 6-year-old, you dream about being a senior and going out by winning a Gold Ball,” said Skowhegan running back and linebacker Hunter McEwen. “There’s really no better feeling, man. I really can’t even describe it.”

It was a season of expectations for Skowhegan, which was picked as the preseason favorite in the Pine Tree Conference. The River Hawks validated the hype with a 6-0 start in which their closest game was a 20-point win over Lawrence, but they would falter to end the regular season with back-to-back losses to Thornton Academy and Windham.

Skowhegan, though, recovered at exactly the right time. The River Hawks blew out Brewer to begin the regional playoffs before beating Lawrence in a 66-48 thriller in the Class B North semifinals. After beating Falmouth to win the regional crown, the River Hawks put together a solid defensive showing against Portland to claim the state title.


“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Skowhegan head coach Ryan Libby. “The whole thing was just surreal. We had dinner with the 1978 team (two nights before the game), and to be able to share in the moment somehow with the group that last did it and then go out and win it, it was amazing.”

Skowhegan had to do it as the No. 2 seed in Class B North after Cony stole the top spot from the River Hawks in the final week of the season. The Rams started 1-2 after losses to Oxford Hills in Week 1 and the River Hawks in Week 3 before rattling off five consecutive victories to end the regular season.

Cony wasn’t flashy or fancy this year, but the Rams excelled on special teams, limited opposing offenses and got scores when needed. Prior to a regional semifinal loss to Falmouth, Cony’s only losses had come to Oxford Hills and Skowhegan, the former of which won a state championship of its own in Class A.

Cony’s Kameron Douin catches a pass on his way to scoring a 41 yard touchdown ahead of Falmouth’s Lucas Dilworth during a Class B North football semifinal game Nov. 4 in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“When we rebounded from that Skowhegan game to beat Windham at home, that really changed the tide of our season,” said Cony head coach B.L. Lippert. “I think a lot of that has to do with how you deal with adversity. I think playing those tough games early really made us better later on in the year.”

Lawrence, the preseason No. 2 pick in the PTC, had an interesting season as it went 4-6 against one of the state’s toughest schedules. Yet the Bulldogs were still in the playoff mix in November as they upset reigning regional champ Windham in the Northern Maine quarterfinals and scored seven touchdowns against Skowhegan in the semis.

Elsewhere in Class B North, Gardiner was competitive in its PTC return as the elite play of Wyatt Chadwick at quarterback powered the Tigers to the playoffs. Mt. Blue improved from 1-7 last year to 3-6 this year in Matt Friedman’s first year as head coach, and Messalonskee, which had a midseason coaching change, went 2-6.


One of the biggest year-over-year improvements in the area came courtesy of Nokomis, which jumped from 1-7 last year to 5-4 this season. The Warriors’ offense took a major step forward, eclipsing the 30-point mark six times after failing to do it once last season.

“We kind of thought that might be how it was going to be this year,” Nokomis head coach Jake Rogers said of the team’s offensive improvements earlier in the season. “Defensively, we lost two key players (from last season) who were the heart of our defense and were great at lateral tackling, but our offense (got) a lot better schematically.”

The Warriors’ season came to an end with a Class C North quarterfinal loss to Winslow, which brushed off a 3-5 regular season with a 27-12 win over Nokomis as star running back Matt Quirion returned from injury. The other local C North team, Maine Central Institute, finished 3-6 after an 0-4 start to the season.

In Class D, Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale was once again a postseason factor as it went 6-4 in a statewide class that’s become remarkably competitive in its brief existence. Young Oak Hill (2-7) and Madison/Carrabec (1-8) teams rounded out the bottom of the eight-team class.

Waterville football coach Isaac LeBlanc talks to players during a Nov. 9 practice at Colby College in Waterville. The Purple Panthers are preparing to face Yarmouth in the eight-man Large School title game Saturday at Cony High in Augusta. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Waterville came into the eight-man season with ambitions to repeat as Large School North champions. The Purple Panthers did so in beating Mt. Desert Island to win the regional title, and they nearly did one better a week later as Yarmouth needed a dominating drive late to squeak out a 30-26 win over Waterville in the state championship game.

“I’m really proud of these guys, and we have a lot of juniors, sophomores and freshmen who really group in the program this year and are going to be coming back,” said Waterville head coach Isaac LeBlanc. “It’s a disappointing end for us in terms of the result, but it’s not disappointing in terms of the effort. What these kids did was tremendous.”

In the Small School ranks, Maranacook continued its stretch of strong seasons in eight-man play as it went 6-3 with a loss to Dirigo in the South semifinals. Mount View went just 1-6 in the North, but the Mustangs’ season saw the emergence of Wyatt Evensen, whose breathtaking campaign included rushing for 475 yards and eight scores in Week 5 against Stearns.

After a stressful season of canceled games and quarantines a year ago, this season was a much less troublesome one for players and coaches. No games were lost to COVID-19 statewide, and those preparing for games could focus on football rather than the worries and distractions that defined the two years prior.

“It was an unbelievable relief,” Lippert said. “Last year, you knew that any phone call you got could mean you’re not playing that week, and this year, we never had to think about it at any point. Without that looming over us, it just made a tremendous difference.”

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