LEWISTON – The high school football season isn’t even officially underway yet, and Lewiston tailback Jared Turcotte is already receiving national attention.

Sports Illustrated’s Web site is touting the senior as the top player in the State of Maine in its national high school football preview, a designation that caught Turcotte by surprise.

“I don’t know how to react to it, but it’s nice to be put ahead of (Chris) Treister from Portland, (Alex) Gallant from Bangor, (Chris) Leroy from Deering and (Brian) Sandora from Deering,” Turcotte said. “It’s kind of flattering that people think that I’m better than that group of people. It’s going to make me try to step up my game a little bit to try to prove them right.”

Despite being plagued by an injured left knee for part of the season, Turcotte rushed for 1,900 yards and 21 touchdowns in just eight games last year. He’s one of the early favorites to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy, and his presence in the backfield makes the Blue Devils a leading contender for the Pine Tree Conference crown.

Coach Bill County said Turcotte is deserving of this and other accolades he has received and is bringing excitement back to Lewiston football.

“Suddenly, not only is he getting local p.r., but he’s getting it on a national level,” he said. “(The list of accolades) just keeps growing. He’s a talent. It’s kind of funny, someone asked me if anyone from Lewiston had ever gotten these kind of accolades, and I said, ‘Hey, there’s a long tradition here.’ Obviously, we’re excited that he’s kind of rejuvenated some of that tradition.”

At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Turcotte brings a rare combination of speed, quickness and power to the Blue Devils. Defenses all over the PTC keyed on him last year and he can expect more of the same this season.

New Edward Little coach Darren Hartley, who was an assistant coach at Lewiston when Turcotte posted his first 1,000-yard season as a sophomore, said the running back has the perfect attitude to go along with his obvious physical gifts.

“The thing that sets Jared apart is he’s a lot faster than he looks because he’s so big,” said Hartley, who is a teacher at Lewiston High School. “His determination to be so good on every single play is probably his biggest strength.”

Determined to improve his speed and running technique, Turcotte ran track for the first time last spring (when he also won the state long jump championship). He cut his 40 time down to 4.6 seconds, though he’s slowed down a little over the summer after bulking up a bit.

“Track taught me how to run, how to get my legs up and use my arms,” said Turcotte, who reported that the partial tear to the MCL in his left knee is completely healed. “Just being able to use what I got from track, even though I’m not in the same shape that I was for that season, using what I learned will make me faster.”

Besides adding another five pounds or so in the weight room this summer, he attended Boston College Football Camp and spoke with a number of colleges. An honor roll student, he’s visited Harvard and Dartmouth and has talked with Bucknell. Though he is still undecided, he said he is leaning toward Dartmouth because he was impressed with head coach Buddy Teevens and the small-town atmosphere in Hanover, N.H. reminded him of home.

Lewiston opens the regular season next Friday night at Bangor.

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