OAKLAND – Friday night’s game between Brunswick and Messalonskee featured two of the top running backs in the Pine Tree Conference. But this one was all about defense.

Messalonskee made two crucial stops in the fourth quarter, the first on a conversion rush and the second resulting in a safety, en route to a 16-6 victory over the Dragons (2-1).

Brunswick’s Dylan Walton and Messalonskee’s Keenan Knox each broke long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter but otherwise had to work for their yards. Walton finished with 148 yards on 23 carries, and Knox rushed for 113 in 24 attempts.

“I knew it would come down to defense,” Knox said. “That’s what we stressed this week.”

Eagles quarterback Justin Tinsman scored on a 12-yard run early in the second quarter to cap a 40-yard drive set up by Tyler Easler’s interception. Tinsman kicked the extra point and the 7-0 lead stood up until Walton broke a 49-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter.

The Dragons’ plan to rush the conversion gained momentum after the Eagles (2-1) jumped offsides to put the ball at the 11/2-yard line. Walton got the call but was stuffed by sophomore Jake Stinson.

“That was a big one right there,” Messalonskee Coach Wes Littlefield said. “(Walton) had that one big run but we pretty much contained him the whole game. I was pretty happy about that. I thought the defense came up big today.”

The Eagles drove to the Brunswick 40 on the ensuing possession but were forced to punt. Senior Billy Potter dropped a beauty inside the 1-yard line and on the next play, seniors Ryan Berthiaume and Brock Garten combined to stop Walton in the end zone for a safety.

“They had been driving the left side and we decided we needed to stop them right there,” Berthiaume said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight coming into this.”

Two plays later, Knox broke off tackle, cut back and completed a 45-yard scoring run. Tinsman kicked to extra point to make it 16-6 with 4:31 left.

“It was hard to get the big runs tonight,” said Knox, who entered the game as the conference’s leading rusher. “They were keying on me and plugging up the holes pretty well.”

The Dragons finished with 186 total yards, while the Eagles totaled 247.

“Our inability to get others going on offense besides our running back hurt us,” Brunswick Coach Dan Cooper said. “I don’t think we were fooling anybody, and they’re a good football team, awful good.”