ATHENS — The Twin City Riot semiprofessional football team in the Bangor-Brewer area has named Athens as its new home field for practice and New England Football League home games.
Athens Recreation Department Director Cory Bussell said using the field just north of the downtown village will be good for the town and good for the continuing youth football programs in town. He said Somerset Academy trustees gave the fields behind the academy to the town a few years ago and town officials agreed to allow the Riot to use the field.
“Everybody thought it would be a good idea for them to come to town,” said Bussell, an assistant football coach at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield and one-time player for the NEFL Central Maine Storm. “I think this will be a good thing. We used to have a good youth football program in Athens, and it’s petering out a little bit and hopefully some of the younger kids will see football and want to play a little bit more.”
Ronald Overlock, the Riot’s 6-foot-6-inch, 273-pound offensive guard and defensive tackle, said team players are driving a lot of miles to practices and games, so Athens seems to be a good fit.
Overlock said practices and games had been in Bangor, so travel time for players from Lewiston or Augusta will be reduced by having the home field in Athens, about 12 miles north of Skowhegan in Somerset County.
“We ended up in Athens because one of our wide receivers, Eligah Munn, talked to Cory Bussell about it and it’s good for the town,” Overlock, 34, said. “He told us we could use it and helped set up the field for our first home game there.
“It’s a great feeling to have a home field. We used to use the University of Maine field, but it was funding issues — they wanted $900 a game — and Cory was happy to bring us on and we’re very thankful to have them let us use their field.”
Munn, 37, said he has been playing football most of his life — 17 years in the NEFL — and loves the idea of playing in his hometown of Athens.
“We love this field. Cory Bussell did an amazing job getting the field set up,” Munn said of the regulation-size field, with goal posts, an electronic scoreboard, concessions stand and press box. “I knew of the field because I grew up just a short distance away. My son has played here when he was in the rec league in Skowhegan.”
Munn said most NEFL teams are pay-to-play organizations in which players pay $175 in annual dues and purchase their own equipment for eight games per season. Teams from bigger cities and towns have sponsors.
“It’s not much to play the game that we all love,” he said.
The Riot is one of 10 teams in the single A Maritime Conference of the NEFL, founded in 1994 in Salisbury, Massachusetts. In its inaugural season, the league consisted of only four teams, the Lawrence Lightning, the Greater Lawrence Grizzlies, the Rockingham Reapers and the Haverhill Rage. All the games were played on one practice field and each team had between 22 and 25 players on its roster, according to the league website. The league now boasts 25 teams in three conferences across New England.
Player ages range from 19 to 45 years. The league claims to be the largest semipro, minor league football league in the nation.
The Riot’s first home game at Linkletter Field on Route 150, also known as Harmony Road just north of Athens village, was Aug. 18.
Overlook said the team is planning to be at the Athens field next season. Their next and last game of the season is Sunday at 1 p.m. in Burlington, Vermont.
Bussell said the Riot will be back for the 2019 football season and will probably change their team logo and name to reflect their new home location.
“We’re going to try to recruit some area kids, some area football players who are just out of school to build a fan base,” he said. “They don’t know what they’re going to call themselves yet.”
Munn said they are open to suggestions of what to call the team.
Eligah Munn, a wide receiver for the Twin City Riot semipro football team, has played for 17 years in the New England Football League and says his team, which has found a home at Linkletter Field in Athens, is open to suggestions about a new name. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)
The Twin City Riot of the New England Football League pose for a team photo in August at their new home field in Athens. (Contributed photo)
The Twin City Riot of the New England Football League battle it out in August against the Vermont Ravens at the Riot’s new home field in Athens. (Contributed photo)