It was the sport of last fall that never started. And although football started this time around, the worry throughout the season was how it might end.
The COVID cases that were on the rise had a handful of teams statewide withdrawing from games every week, and as cancellations wreaked havoc on schedules, teams that were in the midst of strong years were just hoping to see their seasons to the end.
“We said to the kids, right there in the preseason, ‘guys this is week after week,’” Winthrop / Monmouth / Hall-Dale coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “’If we get three games, enjoy those three games. The kids somehow knew in the back of their minds that this could be stopped at any time. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Whether it’s the entire program or multiple programs or the MPA stopping us, just savor every minute.
In the end, the ax never fell, and although COVID presented a headache in terms of players being absent for symptoms or close contact and games canceled as a result, the players – at least on the field – felt normal they had missed so much the previous fall.
There were differences, however. Several coaches said it was easy to see rust in kids who couldn’t play last year, and some, like Lawrence coach John Hersom, said their depth in specialist positions had been put to the test by a year without a season.
“We thought we were behind with a lot of detailed skills that normally carry over from year to year,” said Hersom, who said he entered the year with just one long snapper. “We felt a pretty big gap that way. “
Despite the obstacles, it has become a successful season for the teams in the region. There were no Golden Balls brought into central Maine, but four teams played for one as Winslow and Winthrop / Monmouth / Hall-Dale reached the final in Classes C and D, and Waterville and Maranacook have reached the championship games in Eight- Man Football’s large and small school conferences, respectively.
The Ramblers, who established themselves as one of the best programs in Class D but missed that appearance in the title game, finally got it this season. Led by a rushed three-pronged attack from Logan Baird, Dom Trott and Robby Feeney and quarterback Andrew Foster behind a strong offensive line, the Ramblers went 5-1 in the regular season, then beat Bucksport 46-27 and Freeport 28-19 forward falling to Foxcroft in a tight 19-16 result.
“We didn’t know what we were going to have in the face of adversity this year, but we have definitely been hit by everything under the sun,” said St. Hilaire, whose team has been hit with cases of COVID just in the end of the regular season. “The children handled it well.
Winslow, powered by his own trio of running backs consisting of Matt Quirion, Evan Bourget and Jack Dorval, succeeded under new head coaches Pete Bolduc and Wes Littlefield and won his first Class C North title since 2015. The Black Raiders beat Hermon 38-30 for the regional crown, but came up against a powerful Cape Elizabeth team in the final.
Waterville, who got one of the state’s most prolific offensive seasons from quarterback Liam Von Oesen, made his debut in eight-a-side football and went 5-1 in the regular season before defeating Mount Desert Island. and Morse en route to the State Finals, where the road ended in a loss to the undefeated Cheverus.
Maranacook was plagued by COVID early on and lost three of its first five games. Anchored by quarterback Chris Reid, running back Owen Dunn and offensive lineman Wyatt Douin, however, the Black Bears had victories over Old Orchard Beach, Telstar and Dirigo before losing in the final game of the final against Dexter, 34-30.
“We’re going to be young next year. I wouldn’t want to rely on us, though, ”said Maranacook coach Jordan DeMillo. “Their dedication is phenomenal. “
In Class B, Lawrence won his first state final since 2012, losing to Windham in the B North 42-35 Championship in double overtime. The Bulldogs were hit with injuries midway through the season, but with running back Parker Higgins emerging as one of the best players in the conference, they recovered and were part of a championship contender. State late.
“We were really happy that our kids came together really well, towards the end of the season where we were kind of playing with a full squad,” Hersom said. “It was really a highlight for the kids to go through these final games of the season and have that feeling.”
Despite pandemic, Maine high school football crossed the finish line