FARMINGTON — One team was playing for a home playoff game, the other for pride as its postseason hopes had ended prior to kickoff.
You couldn’t tell which team was which, but in the end, the team playing for nothing more than pride came away victorious.
Skowhegan, its playoff hopes dashed after Brewer’s win over Hampden earlier in the day, ended Mt. Blue’s regular season on a sour note, defeating the Cougars, 26-21, on Saturday at Competition Field. Mt. Blue would have hosted Messalonskee in a Class B East state quarterfinal game, but will instead travel to Messalonskee.
“We’re always going to play for the name on the front of our jersey,” Skowhegan coach Matthew Friedman said. “We’re always going to play for pride. We play for our teammates and we’re a family. We look to do the best we can every time out.”
Skowhegan quarterback Garrett McSweeney completed 15 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns and Kaleb Brown ran for over 100 yards in his final game in a Skowhegan uniform.
The Cougars (4-4) took a 7-0 lead on a wild play late in the first quarter. Mt. Blue quarterback Ryan Pratt was trying to find Ty Lefebvre in the corner of the end zone, but the ball deflected off the foot of a Skowhegan defender and hauled in by Mt. Blue’s Caleb Hall for a 30-yard touchdown.
The Indians (4-4) took control the rest of the half, scoring the final 12 points. A blocked punt by Kam Doucette set up Skowhegan’s first touchdown, an 8-yard touchdown run up the middle by Brown with 4:22 left in the half.
Skowhegan grabbed a 12-7 lead in the final minute of the half when McSweeney found Spencer Salley for a 16-yard touchdown on fourth down. McSweeney had 172 yards in the first half.
“The defense was playing off,” McSweeney said. “They were blitzing the backers so the middle was wide open. Outside, got a nice look on that deep bomb. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Three plays into the second half, McSweeney found Eli Holland for a 67-yard touchdown down the right side. It was Holland’s only reception of the game.
The teams traded touchdowns as the Indians grabbed a 26-14 lead with 8:31 remaining after Brown’s second touchdown run of the game. The Cougars responded with an eight-play drive capped off by Pratt’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Christian Whitney with two minutes left to give Mt. Blue a chance.
But the Indians recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock, McSweeney keeping it himself for four yards on a fourth-and-inches to seal it.
“The team knew we were in this situation,” McSweeney said. “We just believed and kept pushing. The seniors did a hell of a job to keep us motivated, keep us driving.”
The Cougars will be in the playoffs, but they will be nowhere near full strength. Injuries to key players continue to pile up. JT Williams carried the ball just once and fellow running back Alex Gilbert left the game in the third quarter.
“You want to see kids play,” Mt. Blue coach Jim Aylward said. “You want to see them finish their season. Skowhegan’s beat up, everyone’s beat up. It just seems our injuries are more obvious. They seem to be hitting us in positions in the backfield and our top linemen. But those aren’t excuses. We didn’t play well enough to win. The better team won tonight.”
Pratt finished 12-for-23 for 254 yards and three touchdowns.