HEBRON — When Alphonso Belnavis was a young athlete, he was a bit skinny and kind of shy.
Still, Dave Sterling knew there was a ton of potential there.
"He grew up with my oldest son," said the Edward Little football coach."I coached them when they were young and at the youth level. I watched him growing up and watched him develop."
It wasn't so much the athlete that Sterling noticed back then. It was a young kid that was easy going and fun to be with. Sterling knew that between his athleticism and his personality, Belnavis was one to watch.
"Because of his attitude, I always knew the sky was the limit for him," said Sterling. "He was always happy and always friendly to the people around him."
Belnavis is less shy and less skinny these days. He's completed his four years at Edward Little and is capping off his football career by being part of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl on Saturday. He's a receiver on the East team, along with teammate Josh Delong.
"It's been a fantastic experience, getting to know people around the state" said Belnavis, who captained the Red Eddies last fall. "Being able to meet some of the Shriner's patients has been a great experience."
Sterling is excited to see his players here. The Lobster Bowl is a great opportunity to play with the best players around the state while playing for a cause as well.
"You really get to see guys that I saw develop and see them play at an even higher level," said Sterling.
For Belnavis, it's been a lot of hard work that has helped get him to this point. As a freshman, he was pretty thin and spent a lot of his EL career working in the weight room building up his body. His confidence grew and his presence among teammates was established.
"He had to work his body to get to where he is today," said Sterling. "It's nice to see him get the rewards. He put the effort in and getting to be in this type of game. It's something he'll remember the rest of his life."
Belnavis hopes to play football at Mt. Ida in Newton, Mass. He's waiting on what his financial aid package might be. Another option might be running track at the University of Maine. So Saturday's game may or may not be his last.
"I'm looking at it like it is, but you never know," said Belnavis, who plans to study secondary education.
He says he knew his football career might be over after the fall season ended. Though he's getting one last try at the high school level, he's looking at Saturday's game as more than just football.
"We're playing for a good cause so I'm putting the football aspect of it behind me," said Belnavis. "We're working hard, but it's more fun and about enjoying it and about what we're doing it for."
He's glad to be able to be part of raising money for a good cause and giving something back. He says one of the biggest parts of his football career was feeling the presence of other people being there for him.
"My peers and my coaches were behind me all along," said Belnavis. "If I wasn't on my feet, they helped me out. It'll always be my home."
So will be the traits that Sterling says are ingrained in the player he first saw as just a kid. He's seen Belnavis come a long way but is still convinced that the sky is the limit for him.
"With the great attitude and the work ethic he was, he can do whatever he wants to do," said Sterling.