Sunday, December 8, 2013
OAKLAND — The Messalonskee football team has transformed itself from a Pine Tree Conference also ran into a group no one wants to meet in the playoffs.
The Eagles concluded their regular season Friday night with a 42-6 win against Lawrence, their third in a row and fifth in the last six games. Messalonskee (5-3) awaits the final tally of Crabtree points to see if it gets a bye for the opening round of the conference playoffs next week.
“We’re going to go in two or three, I think,” Messalonskee coach Brad Bishop said. “I just told the kids we’re going to play somebody we’ve already played, so it’s a whole new season now.”
Lawrence, which has dominated the PTC the past seven years, losing just one regular-season game, finally had a down year and finished at 2-6.
“We’ve got some youth,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said. “We want to be on top every year but sometimes you just have to go through some growing pains.”
The Eagles led 28-0 at the half with quarterback Jake Dexter and running back Corey McKenzie each scoring two touchdowns. McKenzie carried the ball just eight times for 36 yards before leaving the game in the second quarter after injuring his neck. But he and Dexter hooked up on the play of the game, a 71-yard scoring pass in which McKenzie caught the ball in the open and shook off a tackler at the Lawrence 35.
“In the huddle I told (Dexter) I was going to be open,” McKenzie said. “And sure enough I was open down the middle of the field. I knew I had some guy coming up on me, but I wasn’t stopping. I just kept my legs moving.”
Senior Dylan Bragg took over for McKenzie and finished with 95 yards on 16 carries while scoring on runs of 3 and 2 yards. Dexter set up Bragg’s first touchdown with a 24-yard pass out of the backfield to Jack Bernatchez. The Bulldogs broke the shutout when Ethan Powers scored on a 20-yard run in the third quarter.
Powers provided nearly all the offense for Lawrence with 168 rushing yards on 36 carries. During the Bulldogs’ third-quarter scoring drive he carried the ball 11 straight times. Carries have increased for the senior back since senior Beau Grenier broke his hand a few games ago.
“We had to kind of change our offense up because of the injuries,” Hersom said.
The Eagles turned their season around with a win against Mt. Blue and continued that momentum with an upset against unbeaten Brunswick.
“They’re more comfortable with me and more comfortable with what we’re doing,” said Bishop, who is in his first year as Messalonskee coach. “We’ve played a tough schedule, we’re battle tested. We’ve earned whatever we got.”