The Cougars shut out Gardiner. They allowed six points apiece to Cony and Hampden. Lawrence had a single touchdown on the board most of the night until Mt. Blue built a 35-point lead and a running clock prevailed.

Not one of those teams has a winning record, and perhaps that last point underscores Mt. Blue coach Jim Aylward’s sense of caution. For the most part, the Cougars’ offense has been so dominant that the defense knows few conditions other than being fresh and playing with a lead.

“We really feel if we run the ball that we don’t have to play as much defense,” Aylward said.

That philosophy will be put to its biggest test to date Friday night, when Mt. Blue (5-1) hosts Brunswick (5-1) at Farmington’s Caldwell Field in a Pine Tree Conference clash rife with playoff implications. Kickoff time is 7 p.m.

Assuming that Will Bessey is fully recovered from the injuries that knocked him out of a 34-27 loss at Brewer last week, Mt. Blue’s first, second and third priorities will be stopping Brunswick’s relentless halfback.

Bessey exploded for 367 yards and six touchdowns two weeks ago in Brunswick’s 56-35 win over Skowhegan.

The defending regional champions are more than one-dimensional, though. Thomas Hanson is a capable quarterback with two proven targets in Corban Teel and Alan Molnar.

Brewer was the first team to hold Brunswick under 35 points. The Dragons have averaged 43 per game. By contrast, the Cougars have allowed a total of 58 in six games.

Offense remains Mt. Blue’s strength, led largely by the three-pronged running attack of Christian Whitney, Zach Meader and Alex Gilbert. Meader scored two touchdowns Saturday to revive the Cougars from a sluggish start and produce a 24-14 victory at Nokomis.

It is a dynamic that has surprised some opponents, since the Cougars entered the season with a prolific returning aerial combination in quarterback Ryan Pratt and flanker Nate Pratt-Holt. Those two also hooked up for a touchdown in the win this past week.

“We’ve tried to transition more into a power-running team,” Aylward said. “At the same time we have athletes that we know we can throw the ball to.”

Mt. Blue and Brunswick are part of a four-team logjam with Brewer and Skowhegan at 5-1 atop the conference. The lone loss came in Week 2, 20-13 to Brewer, in a game Aylward missed while hospitalized with a collapsed lung.

“Looking at the film, we feel like we might have given that one away,” Aylward said.

The Cougars go to Skowhegan next week. Winning both likely would leave Mt. Blue no worse than No. 2 in the playoff bracket.

“We’re raising our expectations. I think the kids are starting to get the idea that we’re not hoping to be good,” Aylward said. “We want to be good. We’re not hoping or wishing for it. We’re working toward it.”

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