FARMINGTON — Calan Lucas didn't have to go far for Mt. Blue's practices and games the past two years. Kemp Field is almost in his back yard.
Nate Backus' story is more about timing than location. But the Mt. Blue teammates have something in common that has made them integral parts of the Cougars' offense — speed.
Backus is the deep threat in the passing game and a dangerous kick and punt returner. Lucas is a slashing halfback whose ability to get outside complements the inside running of Chad Luker and Bradley Jackson.
On most teams, they would be the explosive, big-play threats others gameplan to stop. On a loaded Mt. Blue team, they are complementary parts sometimes overlooked amid all of the weapons.
"It's absolutely right to say we have a balanced offense, especially with the line blocking," Lucas said. "We fit in, but there's always someone right behind us that can make us push harder."
Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin had Backus, a junior, projected as his No. 1 receiver this year, but surgery on his right pinkie sidelined him for the start of the season. He returned midseason for the Leavitt game, which is when Cam Abbott, who became the Cougars' top deep threat in the passing game in Backus' absence, went down with a knee injury.
"The football gods have sort of fallen into place for us, because you have someone of Cam Abbott's ability go down, and all of a sudden miraculously, Nate Backus appears," Parlin said. "It was 50/50 whether his hand surgeon was going to clear him to play."
"Cam was big shoes to fill," Backus said. "He's a great player and when I had to fill in, everyone did their jobs and I did my job. We miss Cam, though. We really do miss Cam."
They would miss him a lot more if not for Backus, who stretches the field for quarterback Jordan Whitney and gives other receivers such as Nick Hyde, Luker and Kindle Bonsall more room to operate underneath.
Backus knew when he came back that Whitney would have more of a rapport with those receivers than him and he would have to earn the senior quarterback's trust.
"Going into this year, I had Cam Abbott and Nick Hyde in front of me, and I knew Jordan didn't feel the same way about me as he did about those two. I had to earn that," he said. "Everyone took part and it's worked out now."
Whitney showed his faith in Backus in the Cougars' semifinal win over Gardiner by throwing to him four times for 118 yard and two touchdowns, including a crucial fourth down completion for a 31-yard touchdown that clinched the win.
"Nate Backus stepped in big," Whitney said. "He's a big part of the offense now."
Lucas' list of injuries is more extensive than Backus. He suffered a concussion as a freshman and a shoulder injury as a sophomore. A converted receiver, he went into his junior year as Eric Berry's backup at running back. Two days after scoring on a long touchdown run for the varsity against Gardiner, he broke his leg in a JV game.
Relatively injury-free for his senior season, Lucas has been eager to help out the Cougars in any way he can.
"Whenever I'm needed to step up, I'm there. If a coach needs me for a play here or there, that's fine," Lucas said.
"I'm so happy for him," Parlin said. "When he was injured, he never missed practice. I can't think of anything worse than having to stand around and watch five weeks of football practice and not be able to participate."
The past two years, Lucas could practically look out his back window and watch the Cougars. When he was in the sixth grade, his family moved into the farmhouse at the corner of the entrance road to Mt. Blue's temporary football home.
"It's been cool. This is my home field," he said. "This has become our field. We're going to miss it, for sure."
Lucas made his last game in his backyard a memorable one. He ran for 140 yards and a touchdown in last week's PTC championship against Waterville.
"Anyone can run the ball with this line. The blocks that they put down are amazing," he said.
Parlin thinks he has more in him.
"I wouldn't be shocked if he all of a sudden makes two or three big plays Saturday night, because once he gets into the secondary, he is lightning," Parlin said. "He can run. He made the quote at the senior banquet, 'It's not really about scoring touchdowns. I just like to run.'"
Lucas and Backus hope to show how much they like to run on the fast Fitzpatrick Stadium turf on Saturday.