FARMINGTON — After throwing three consecutive prayers and reaping an improbable, last-second touchdown as the answer, few high school football teams would welcome the pressure of kicking an extra point to win the game.
If you don’t have the next Stephen Gostkowski or Adam Vinatieri lurking on your sideline, however, Anthony Franchetti — a kid who was essentially born into the game and groomed for the moment — is a worthy alternative.
”Last week against Brewer, it’s tied up, this Miracle at Mt. Blue,” said Peter Franchetti, Mt. Blue offensive line coach and Anthony’s father. “So Brewer calls timeout to ice him, and the team comes over. He made eye contact with me and said, ‘I’ve dreamed about stuff like this.’ So I knew he would do his one-eleventh, and if all the kids did their one-eleventh, we’d be fine. Issac Collins made a great snap, and Ryan (Pratt) got it down.”
Franchetti stuck to his usual routine. Arm extended, mentally dividing the uprights in half. Head down, like Rick Danmeier, Ray Wersching and other legendary, straight-on kickers of yesteryear. Follow through …
The kick was good, giving Mt. Blue a 37-36 homecoming win that seemed impossible after Brewer scored three consecutive touchdowns in the fourth quarter and forced the Cougars (4-3) to cover 60 yards in just over a half-minute.
“He’s a three sport athlete,” Peter said of his son, who also skis and plays baseball. “He’s been an advocate for playing different sports and being coached by different people. He’s been in these situations since he was eight years old, for crying out loud, so it was just another rung on his ladder.”
It would be the highlight of most high school careers, except that Franchetti’s ride with the program goes back, well, almost longer than he can remember.
“Mt. Blue has been my fondest and best memories, growing up with football here,” Anthony said. “I think about it all the time. I’ve loved it, and I still do.”
When he was 6, Anthony and his father would load his bicycle into the back of a truck. While his dad and older brother, Garrett Strout, sweated out practice, Anthony and Issac Collins — son of Cougars’ defensive coordinator Craig Collins – rode their bikes on the worn-out track around the old Caldwell Field.
On Friday nights, Anthony served as water boy, or ball boy, or the caddy who chases down the tee after each kickoff. Much of this work, admittedly, was against the better judgment of his mom, Jane.
“I told the kids, ‘Don’t let Anthony get hit, because my butt would be in a sling.’ And I would forget about him during a game,” Peter said. “A sweep would come our way, and I would look over and see his feet were dangling.”
“Derek Rowe picked me up one time,” Anthony recalled.
Anthony wasn’t allowed on the sideline for the final game of that season, a playoff loss at Bangor.
He was invited back to the locker room, where he saw Strout and teammate Nate Bolduc crying over the finality of the moment. The young manager walked over and stood between them, the tears starting to descend his cheeks.
“If I had a camera, it would have been a great picture,” Peter said. “It was so cool. There are so many stories.”
The next year, Mt. Blue won the Class A East championship and faced Bonny Eagle for the state title.
Anthony was crushed to learn that only enrolled high school students and authorized adults would be permitted on the field at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been madder at somebody,” he said. “He waited until Thursday to tell me.”
The younger Franchetti would get his turn to step on the artificial turf seven years later.
It was a good break that started with a bad one. Franchetti fractured his wrist on the final play of Mt. Blue’s first preseason scrimmage against Lawrence his freshman year.
“I was always the guy who got chosen to be the kicker in middle school,” Anthony said. “Then it was like, ‘You’re out for six weeks. Sorry. But you can kick. There’s nothing wrong with your legs.’ I worked on my kicking every day for however long I was out. I kicked more extra points, field goals than I could count.”
Mt. Blue practiced at Academy Hill School in Wilton that season while its football complex and high school were under reconstruction.
Franchetti, still standing more than a head shorter than his teammates, once again was the kid messing around in the corner while practice was ongoing. This time, though, he was hard at work.
It paid off when he became the first freshman in Mt. Blue school history to score a point in a varsity football game. The Cougars reached the Class B East final before losing to Leavitt in double-overtime.
A year later, Mt. Blue was scoring touchdowns at a dizzying rate — more than 60 in 12 games. Franchetti set a school record of 44 made PATs that might stand forever. It was his primary contribution to a senior-dominated squad that won the state title.
“You think of dreams coming true, and that’s what that was for me,” Anthony said. “I don’t think I slept all week.”
When it became apparent that kicking was Anthony’s meal ticket to the varsity at a young age, Peter obtained him a copy of former Minnesota Viking Danmeier’s book, “The Art of Placekicking.”
“I don’t know how much he’s read it recently, because he’s got a pretty good routine going now,” the coach said.
Also against Brewer, Franchetti broke the Mt. Blue record for most points by a kicker. How enduring was the mark? It was owned by David Stevens, father of former Mt. Blue and University of Maine star linebacker Jordan Stevens.
In addition to two career field goals, Franchetti has nailed 96 extra points. The most recent, he said, was the fulfilment of another dream.
“I knew everybody was going to what they had to do,” Anthony said. “It was awesome. I don’t know how many times down at Wilton I said, ‘Alright, it’s 20-20. You need to make it to win the game,’ or, ‘You’re down by two points.’”
Franchetti’s football experience evolved his junior year, when he moved into his father’s starting five. He later shifted from guard to center, his brother’s old position.
This season he has been one of the few Cougars in the trenches to stay healthy and start all seven games, heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Skowhegan.
“It’s been a transition year. At Brunswick we started two seniors. I can’t ever remember starting that few seniors at this school,” said Peter, who was head coach at Dirigo before Anthony was born. “For these guys to get where they are at this point in the season, it’s a nice accomplishment. I’m very proud of how we’ve progressed as an offensive line.”
The season has been an emotional journey. Peter’s mother and Anthony’s grandmother, Constance, died Oct. 8.
Father and son both credit the woman of their house with keeping them afloat through the highs and lows of this four-year run.
“Jane keeps us all grounded, because we can get out there real fast. She’s been the glue and can bring us back to reality. It’s been a family affair,” Peter said.
“I’ve really grown up with this, and I’ve loved it, every second of it,” Anthony added. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in. I’ve had a blast.”
Or a kick. Or two. Or a hundred.