September 5, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAME OF THE WEEK: Messalonskee has hands full against Cony

By Bill Stewart bstewart@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Brad Bishop and the Messalonskee football team know what's coming tonight when they welcome Cony to Veterans Field in the season opener for both teams.

"We'll have our hands full," Bishop said. "We're going to see a lot of spread teams this year, and this is one of the better ones."

Cony and Messalonskee will meet in the regular-season opener for a third consecutive season at 7 p.m. Friday.

Messalonskee won the previous two meetings, 46-0 in 2011 and 21-19 last year.

A third straight victory won't come easy for Messalonskee, which will have to contend with Ben Lucas, Cony's 6-foot-4 record-setting quarterback, and a host of athletic receivers.

"It's tough to simulate what Cony can do," Bishop said. "And what they do, they do pretty well. They have a bunch of kids who can execute."

The Rams are coming off their finest season in 20 years. They reached the PTC A championship game, losing to Lawrence, and finished 8-3.

Lucas, one of the top quarterbacks in the state, threw for 2,736 yards and 32 touchdowns -- both single-season Cony records.

He has a deep pool of receivers to throw to this year, including Jonathan Saban, Tayler Carrier, John Bennett, Anthony Brunelle, Kevin Kingsbury and Reid Shostak.

"They have an explosive offense," Messalonskee senior quarterback/defensive back Jake Dexter said. "(Lucas) is one of the best quarterbacks in the state. We're all excited about the challenge. We know Cony will be one of best teams in the league. We'll have to step it up."

The Eagles will look for big games from fellow defensive back Devin Warren to disrupt the dangerous Cony passing attack.

"We have to make sure every zone is covered," Bishop said. "Devin and Jake, they see the field very well. We have a lot of good kids back there."

Cony coach Robby Vachon said it's no secret that the Rams will look to air out the Eagles tonight, but he'd like to establish a ground game as well. Charlie Hallak and Shostak will handle the ball out of the backfield.

"We have to be sound in what we do," Vachon said. "We can't get caught up in not having beaten them in awhile. Obviously, we're going to throw the ball but we need to establish the run, too. We have to stay out of third and long. Messalonskee is a tough team. They've had our number the past few seasons and it's going to take a great effort from our kids. On the flip side, it's going to take a great effort out of their kids, as well."

Bishop re-worked Messalonskee's offense, ditching the double-wing offense. Corey McKenzie, who shined as one of the top running backs in what was the PTC A last season, leads the Eagles. He rushed for 1,294 yards last season. Dexter is also threat to run and throw.

"We're a little different," Bishop said. "We're running a lot more formations. Corey is our featured back but he's not getting every carry. We're going to try and spread the ball around."

Added Vachon: "Dexter is an outstanding football player. He's a playmaker and comes from a football family. He gives them that added dimension. We expect a good game (tonight)."

Bill Stewart -- 621-5640

bstewart@centralmaine.com

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