SKOWHEGAN — The big-play factor was largely missing for the Skowhegan football team in this contest — but it didn’t matter in the slightest.
The River Hawks didn’t really run away from Cony in a Week 3 matchup of perennial Class B North contenders. Instead, they were workmanlike on both sides of the ball, using up big chunks of clock with gains of medium yardage on offense and getting off the field quickly on defense to pound the visiting Rams into submission.
Skowhegan bruised its way to a 28-0 victory over Cony in Friday night’s game at Reginald Clark Memorial Field. The River Hawks wore down the Rams by controlling the ball for well over 40 minutes en route to their second consecutive shutout.
“We really made it a focus to win the trenches again because we’d been able to be successful at that so far, and we were able to do that tonight,” said Skowhegan head coach Ryan Libby. “We moved the ball down the field consistently and got first downs when we needed it.”
After Cony received to start the game, Skowhegan (3-0) took over six plays later on a Tyler Annis interception at the River Hawks’ own 6-yard line. The home team then mounted a long scoring drive, going 94 yards in 16 plays with Dunlap punching the ball in from 2 yards out with 1:20 left in the opening quarter.
Cony (1-2) recovered defensively on the next two drives as it forced a three-and-out and then a series of incomplete passes to earn a pair of stops. The Rams appeared to have Skowhegan stopped again with 10 seconds to go in the half with the River Hawks near midfield and in need of a miracle to make it a two-possession game heading into the break.
Instead, Skowhegan got that improbable play. After escaping the pocket, Brendan Dunlap rolled out to his right towards the sideline and looked for an open man downfield. He would find Marshall Easler, who had sprinted past the Cony defense and would make a 53-yard touchdown catch to put the River Hawks up 14-0 as time expired in the half.
“They called out a rollout, and I kind of just threw it downfield hoping that someone was down there,” said Dunlap, making his second straight start in place of the injured Adam Savage. “I mean, I had a good feeling there’d be someone down there, so I wanted to put it up and put them in position to make a play.”
Skowhegan made it 21-0 with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter as Dunlap capped off a nine-play drive with his second touchdown run of the game. Midway through the fourth, a 13-play drive by the River Hawks culminated in a 9-yard touchdown run from Hunter McEwen that put the game out of reach.
Skowhegan’s two second-half scoring drives were tied for its shortest of the game at 79 yards each. They both came after the defense had stopped Cony in plus territory, first after the River Hawks fumbled to begin the half and again after the Rams had driven to the red zone before turning the ball over on downs.
Collin LePage was a menace for Skowhegan on the defensive line, recording two sacks, batting down a key fourth-down pass and bursting through the gaps with ease. He and his brother, Kyle, gave Cony little time to let plays develop offensively as the two kept Cony quarterbacks Davyn Flynn and Dom Napolitano running for their lives.
“Those kids play with a lot of heart, and that’s something you can always count on them to do,” Libby said. “Collin had a great game, and with his brother on the other side, those two LePage boys are trouble for anyone they face. Then you have Hunter McEwen, who’s the heart of our defense. They all played great tonight.”
McEwen also had a great game offensively as he ran for 138 yards on 18 carries. Dunlap had 93 yards on 16 carries and was 8 of 14 passing for 110 yards. Annis had three catches for 32 yards and three carries for 17 yards to go along with his interception on the opening drive.
For Cony, Flynn was 9 of 16 for 76 yards, and Napolitano was 4 of 8 for 36 yards. Caden Schleis-Hooyman had 47 yards on nine carries on the ground, and Kam Douin and Eli Klaiber had five catches for 38 yards and four catches for 35 yards, respectively. The Rams’ quarterbacks combined for just 7 rushing yards.
“We didn’t really get the QB run game going, and when we had guys open, we threw the ball out of the back of the end zone a few times,” said Cony head coach BL Lippert. “They didn’t break many big plays, but they consistently chunked the ball down the field and mauled us up front, and we didn’t have an answer.”
So methodical was Skowhegan’s offense that the 53-yard touchdown pass as the first half expired was the team’s only play longer than 19 yards. That was music to the ears of the River Hawks’ quarterback, who took pride in the way his team earned the win.
“We have a lot of guys who can do that for us on both sides,” Dunlap said. “We could really feel them [getting tired] towards the end. It’s great to win a game like that.”
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