GARDINER – Brunswick is among three or four teams expected to contend for the top spot in Eastern Class B football this season. So far, the Dragons have made a pretty compelling case for themselves.

Friday night, they waltzed through the mud at Hoch Field en route to a 54-0 win against Gardiner in a game that was all but settled in the first half. The Dragons, who dispatched Brewer 47-2 in the season opener, face their first big test of the season Friday in their home opener against Cony.

Brunswick scored on its first five possessions, leading 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and 40-0 at the half. Coach Dan Cooper began substituting in the second quarter and played nearly the entire second half with his reserves.

“We’ve got a good club, Cooper said. “We feel pretty good. If we can stay healthy and play the way we did these first two weeks, we’ve got a good chance to do well.”

The Dragons did almost all their damage on the ground. Starting running back Lucas McCue scored on runs of 82 and 28 yards, and sophomore Will Bessey scored on runs of 33 and 26 yards as well as a punt return of 65 yards. Evan Groat, another sophomore, came on in the second half and scored on runs of 13 and 18 yards. Big junior fullback Alex Bandouveres opened the scoring with an 18-yard run off tackle.

“We’ve got an experienced line,” Cooper said. “These kids have worked hard in the offseason and we’re just poised for a good run this year.”

The Tigers (0-2) were simply overmatched in every department. After going 6-3 last season, they graduated all but two starters. And the schedule is much tougher because several former Class A teams, including Brunswick, have dropped to Class B this season.

“We’ve got to get to work, obviously,” Gardiner Coach Matt Burgess said. “We’re young and those kids have to work.”

The game was played in a steady rain, which seemed to hurt the smaller Tigers, who slipped on several occasions before getting hit. The Dragons had a good idea where they were going and ran through a number of gaping hopes in the line.

“North and south,” McCue said. “That’s how coach teaches us to run.”

McCue gained 126 yards on just four carries, the big one an 82-yarder up the middle. The Dragons ran just 16 plays from scrimmage in the first half yet led 40-0.

Brad Weston led Gardiner with 58 yards on 18 carries.

Kennebec Journal’s Gary Hawkins can be contacted at 621-5638 or at:

ghawkins@centralmaine.com