Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl football player Darryn Bailey of the West team during media day at Foxcroft Academy on Tuesday. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)
DOVER-FOXCROFT — At Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl training camp, Austin Pierce is the president of the Darryn Bailey Fan Club. Pierce expects club membership to swell by the time camp breaks on Friday for Saturday’s all-star football game.
“He’s the best receiver in the state of Maine. I’ve been saying that for probably a year or two now,” Pierce, Bailey’s teammate at Oak Hill High School and a tight end on the West squad with Bailey in the Lobster Bowl, said. “He’ll get a chance to show it. I’m hoping we can air the ball out to him and he’ll get great opportunities, and get a couple TDs on the scoreboard for him.”
The Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl is an annual football game featuring the top recently graduated senior players from around the state in a game benefiting Shriner’s hospitals. On a West offense loaded with talent, Bailey will have a chance to shine. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium.
“Darryn understands the offense. It does help him. He’s trying to help out the other wide receivers,” Oak Hill head coach Stacen Doucette, the West offensive coordinator, said. “He’s done a good job, and so has Austin. Austin’s done a good job at tight end for us.”
Bailey is a cog in a loaded West offense. Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Owen Garrard of Scarborough is a running back. Fitzpatrick finalist Jack Bryant of Falmouth is one quarterback with Cam Sirois, a semifinalist for the award from Bonny Eagle, the other QB. Another Fitzy semifinalist, Madison’s Sean Whalen, will line up in the slot for the West. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Bailey is the West’s biggest receiver (Yarmouth’s 6-5 Jack True is listed as a receiver but has practiced at tight end). Coming from a small Class D school has not deterred Bailey.
“Coming out here to the Lobster Bowl, all these guys are best of the best. The talent is equalized and I just have to go 100 percent,” Bailey said after Tuesday morning’s practice.
It was at that morning practice Tuesday that Bailey felt like he was starting to get comfortable and playing to his potential.
“I was doing pretty good. I had a rough start the first few days, but after (Tuesday’s) morning session, I started clicking with my QBs. It’s all falling into place for me,” Bailey said.
Bailey made himself known statewide as a sophomore, although on the defensive side of the ball, in Oak Hill’s 34-21 win over Maine Central Institute in the Class D state championship game. Bailey had two interceptions and seven and a half tackles to help the Raiders win their third straight state title.
Pierce has become used to seeing his teammate come up big over and over again. There was a three catch, 102-yard, two touchdown effort in an early season win over Yarmouth last fall. In a must-win late season game against Winthrop/Monmouth last October, Bailey caught six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. Oak Hill won, 28-26, keeping its playoff hopes intact.
“He did it in the state game sophomore year. He represented last year,” Pierce said. “We went out to passing camps between junior and senior year and he did it out there, too.”
While the West offense isn’t exactly Oak Hill’s system, it’s close, and Bailey is able to help the other receivers learn the terminology.
“It’s basically the same thing, so I have a jump start. I’m actually coaching some kids out there. That’s major for me,” Bailey said. “Hopefully (Doucette’s) going to give me good looks.”
Doucette saw Bailey’s confidence grow into his ability in his four years at Oak Hill. When it all came together, Bailey was tough to defend.
“With size and strength comes confidence,” Doucette said. “I thought Darryn was very quiet as a younger player. He kind of let the game come to him. As he matured and his body developed, he’s kind of gone where he’ll make plays. He’ll get the ball at its highest point and not wait for it to come to him. I think his playmaking ability has increased. I think his ball skills were always good, but making plays is where he’s improved.”
Added Pierce: “In terms of deep ball and going out and catching passes, there’s nobody better. I know that for a fact. I’ve played against him (in practice). He’s the best there is in the state of Maine. I guarantee it.”
Bailey said his best asset as a receiver is his knack for getting the ball.
“I’m not the fastest. I’ll admit I’m not the fastest, but I can get up there and get a jump ball. I can out-jump most guys,” Bailey said.
That’s not to say Bailey is slow. He’s not. What makes him a top receiver is his ability to use his big body to get open.
“He’s got long reach. He has great timing, which is important. He doesn’t drop balls. We know he’s not the fastest guy, but when you understand how to get open, that’s more important,” Doucette said.
Bailey will continue his football career at Husson University. He’s excited for that next chapter, which will include a few of his Lobster Bowl teammates, including Pierce.
“There’s a few guys on this team playing there,” Bailey said.
“Playing with Darryn’s great. We’ve got another four years ahead at Husson. Playing one more time with him at the high school level is amazing,” Pierce said. “I’ve had a good career with him and I’m glad to see it continue.”