SKOWHEGAN — The winless start is starting to feel like a distant memory for the Skowhegan football team.

Facing a Brunswick football team that was dealing with the repercussions of an investigation into an alleged hazing incident, the River Hawks jumped into full gear from the opening snap Friday night, rolling to a 61-14 victory over the Dragons at Reginald Clark Memorial Field.

Marcus Hampton ran for two touchdowns and caught two more, Quintcey McCray scored three touchdowns including one on an 84-yard kickoff return, and Adam Savage completed 15 of 17 passes for 257 yards and five touchdowns to lead the River Hawks in a game that, due to the investigation, wasn’t a certainty at first.

“We didn’t know going in, early in the week, and they said ‘We’re playing,'” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said. “We said ‘All right, we need to tighten up and make sure we execute.’ And that’s exactly what we did.”

After an 0-3 start in which the games were lost by a total of 22 points, Skowhegan has now won two straight by a combined score of 121-14.

“(After) those three losses that we had to begin with, we just wanted to win. It made us hungry,” McCray said. “That’s what it’s doing right now, motivating us to win.”

Due to the investigation, Brunswick had new starters at guard, center, defensive end, tight end and quarterback. Junior Quin McCaffrey, making his first career start behind center, said the off-the-field news was a “serious distraction.”

“We battled. We had a lot of guys who weren’t prepared until this week. All things considered, I think we did pretty good,” he said. “Skowhegan’s a great team. I felt like I was ready. Coaches put a lot in practice, they focused on getting the second-string, JV players prepared to play some varsity football.”

Nate Brunette, filling in as head coach for Brunswick’s first game in two weeks, declined to provide reasons for players’ absences.

“They showed up and played, they fought. That’s what we’re about,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage to do what they did. … We were just glad to be back on the field.”

The Dragons had trouble with a Skowhegan offense that featured two mid-season wrinkles. One was a no-huddle horizontal passing game that allowed Savage to pick Brunswick apart with quick throws to open Skowhegan targets for chunks of yards after the catch.

“Screens have always been an important part of our gameplan,” Libby said. “Oxford Hills in Week 3 really shut it down, Lawrence did a decent job. It was finally back again. It was there for us, so we were able to take advantage.”

Another was the moving of Hampton from tight end to H-back, where he was able to wreak havoc on both handoffs and shovel passes. He caught six passes for 81 yards.

Brunswick quarterback Quinn McCaffrey (8) hands the ball off to running back Dalton Cooper (48) against Skowhegan during football action Friday night in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It kind of just happened this year,” Hampton, who missed the second and third games of the season, said of his new role. “We had some injuries. I used to play halfback before, so the transition was pretty easy for me.”

The scoring started on the first play from scrimmage, when Savage found McCray (three catches, 74 yards) on a post for a 64-yard connection. After Wes Cooper (two interceptions) had a pick to end the second Skowhegan drive, the River Hawks scored on back-to-back possessions, with Hampton running in from 9 and 1 yards out for a 21-0 lead.

A muffed punt by McCray gave Brunswick a short field and the Dragons scored on Dalton Cooper’s 23-yard run, but the Skowhegan junior made up for it on the ensuing kickoff, taking it all the way back for a score and a 28-6 lead.

“It’s tough sometimes, but the coaches help me a lot with that,” McCray said. “Just saying ‘Get rid of it, move on to the next play.'”

The return was the last play of the first quarter. Savage in the second half threw touchdown passes of 16, 12, 15 and 22 yards to Hampton, McCray, Hampton again and Drayke Belanger for a 54-6 halftime lead.

Dalton Cooper added his second touchdown run, from 3 yards out, in the fourth quarter. A 59-yard carry by Brenden Dunlap rounded out the scoring for a Skowhegan team that, after a winless start, has some confidence back.

“One hundred percent,” Hampton said. “We just had to find it. We knew we have it. We’re a good team. We have a lot of good players.”

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