ORONO — In the end, Ben Lucas turned into Ben Lucas and the Kennebunk High defense, no matter how well it played, couldn’t stop him.
Coming off what he called the worst half of his career, Lucas threw three touchdown passes in the final two quarters Friday night, including the winning 25-yarder to Jonathan Saban with 1:00 remaining, to lead Cony to a 30-23 victory over Kennebunk in the Class B state championship game at the University of Maine’s Alfond Stadium.
Cony, which last won a state title in 1932 (when championships were awarded, not won in games), trailed 16-0 late in the third quarter before Lucas led a fierce rally. He ended by completing 24 of 46 passes for 350 yards and no interceptions. He had only 44 passing yards in the first half.
“I really don’t know what happened,’’ said Cony Coach Robby Vachon. “Ben Lucas came and took over this football game and made some huge plays.
“He’s the best quarterback in the history of Maine high school football and he really showed it again.’’
His three touchdown passes gave him a state-record 89 for his career, 41 this season.
Cony scored twice within 62 seconds late in the third quarter on Lucas touchdown passes of 16 yards to Saban and 29 yards to John Bennett (following an interception by Reid Shostak) to pull within 16-14 entering the fourth.
Kennebunk had forged its 16-0 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Nick Emmons to Austin Sandler, a 31-yard field goal by Jake Lary and a 53-yard fumble return by Nicco DeLorenzo.
Cony (9-2) took its first lead with 9:55 remaining in the game when Tayler Carrier rushed in from 3 yards and Lucas passed to him for the conversion points. That made it 22-16.
Kennebunk responded swiftly; Emmons faked a handoff to DeLorenzo to the left, then cut right and sprinted 40 yards untouched for a touchdown. Lary’s extra point made it 23-22 with 7:16 left.
Kennebunk’s defense held, giving Emmons the ball back at the Kennebunk 37.
On first down, Emmons ran the identical play that he scored on and gained 60 yards, caught from behind by Bennett at the 3. On the next play Emmons ran inside but fumbled. Cony’s Elijah Tobey, who had been blocked on Emmons’ two long runs, recovered at the 1.
“I was just doing what I normally do when I saw the ball on the ground,’’ he said. “I knew this was our chance to take it. It was redemption. I couldn’t believe it. I was extremely lucky to recover it.’’
“That was huge,’’ said Kennebunk Coach Joe Rafferty. “We were going for the knockout punch but missed it.’’
Cony took over and, as Lucas said, “I knew we were clicking and we were confident.’’
Cony was lucky. Kennebunk linebacker Ben Bath had what appeared to be an interception but bobbled the ball when he hit the ground. Although he never lost control, it was ruled incomplete.
Cony was content to take time off the clock, too, using the hard running of Charlie Hallak to set up a first down at the Kennebunk 25. There, Lucas threw to Saban on the right, just over the goal line.
Saban made a sliding catch with a defender on his back for the touchdown. Lucas threw to Carrier for the 2-point conversion, and it was 30-23 with a minute left.
Five plays later, Shostak made his second interception to seal the game.
“A great game,’’ said Rafferty. “That was high school football at its purest. They made great plays, our guys made great plays. It was exciting.’’
Kennebunk lost two fumbles and was intercepted three times. The Rams also missed a 27-yard field goal in the first half.
“I know the turnovers hurt,’’ said Rafferty. “I thought we had one there at the end.’’
Instead, Cony had the ball, and later a championship.
“I just knew at the half I had to get my act together,’’ said Lucas. “I just had faith in my teammates. I knew we would come through.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: