When last we saw Jared Turcotte on a football field, he was running over, through and around Edward Little on one good knee

Turcotte’s been pretty busy since then, of course. Basketball and track kept his competitive juices flowing. Shortly after helping Lewiston win its first track and field state title, he visited a couple of Ivy League campuses, Harvard and Dartmouth, where he hopes to prepare himself for a career in medicine. He worked out in the weight room and wowed more college recruiters at the Boston College Football Camp, then started to focus on his senior year at Lewiston.

He also got a part-time job, and a rather atypical one for a 17-year-old at that.

“I’m going to be working at Albert and Burpee Funeral Home this year,” he said. “During football season, I’m just going to be keeping up the lawns and the shrubs, but then once football season starts, I’ll be in the prep room. That should be interesting.”

Yet Turcotte will probably hear more dirges on the football field than off this autumn. The mournful sounds will be emanating from defenders after the tailback has stiff-armed them to the turf or left them in the dust.

Hopefully, the grunts and groans and sobs of the fallen will quickly be drowned out by the roar of a huge crowd. You never know here in Lewiston, because we’ve become woefully apathetic to its high school teams over the last decade. Sometimes Don Roux Field has sounded like a funeral home. But let’s assume for a moment that everyone here realizes what a remarkable young man we have within the city limits and pulls themselves away from American Idol for one night a week to see some real talent.

Of course, with attention like that comes expectations, and those have been piling up at Turcotte’s feet for a while. Even before last season ended, he’d been marked as a favorite for this year’s Fitzpatrick Trophy (He’d be the first Blue Devil to win it since Brian Seguin in 1987). Posters on Internet message boards have forecasted a 2,000-yard season. This past week, Sports Illustrated tabbed him as the top football player in the state. It’s been a while since a Lewiston football player, and by extension, a Lewiston football team, has been met with this much anticipation going into a season.

In the next few weeks, the media requests will increase dramatically. So will the pressure from college coaches to sign a letter of intent. At the same time, he’ll be working hard in the classroom to ensure he has the academic transcript to get into one of those prestigious schools he’s visited. It will get so he’ll have to go to work to finally get some peace.

“It would be naive not to worry a little bit about how many people come in and talk to him on a daily basis and whether or not he can handle it,” Lewiston head coach Bill County said. “So far, he shows that he can keep a level head. I really think he’s more about us being successful as a team than he is about the accolades that come his way, and I really don’t think it’s the company line coming from him.”

Indeed, Turcotte will probably have a better grip on the preseason hype than anyone else wearing blue this fall. He goes out of his way to talk about how his supporting cast will surprise a lot of people, how he won’t have to carry as much of the load on offense this year because of the talent around him, and how everyone on the team will have to contribute for Lewiston to win a state championship.

When he takes the field, a 2,000-yard season will be the furthest thing from his mind.

“I just go out and do what I’ve got to do,” Turcotte said. “I don’t expect or try to get this many yards or this many touchdowns. I just go out and play, and my line does a good job and we just get the job done.”

“I just want this team to be as close-knit as last year’s team,” he added. “I want us to be successful as a team, and I don’t want people to think that I’m the only reason for our success. I want them to know that my success depends on how those guys do their job.”

Turcotte and the Blue Devils go to work next Friday at Bangor, then open their home schedule the following Friday against defending PTC champion Mt. Blue.

If it sounds like a funeral home this year, then it will be time to declare football in Lewiston deceased.

Randy Whitehouse is a Sun Journal staff writer. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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