My only regret at this time of year is not being invited to participate in a human cloning experiment.

Fourteen schools that we consider “ours” in this intrepid department put on football pads every autumn. Six are still practicing as we approach the second Friday and Saturday in November.

Sure, it helps the cause that some of them will square off with each other. But thanks to giant light bulbs and starting times that have been somehow divinely ordained for decades, the chance to see more than two games this weekend is nil.

It’s killing me, of course.

There’s a reason all these teams have survived to this point in the season. Each combines a talent level, personality, maturity and a certain swagger that makes them a joy to watch and fun to cover.

We might as well start this conversation with Leavitt, because, well, doesn’t the chatter always begin (and often end) with the Hornets at this time of year?

If you’ve spent any time wandering around social media or the Hornets themselves, you may have encountered their hashtagged, unofficial motto … ahem … (ticked) off for greatness. Leavitt suffered the indignity of an injury-riddled upset loss to Belfast in the 2012 Eastern Class B playoffs. While the Hornets moved to a different league in a new class this fall, their fury followed them.

Don’t make them angry. You won’t like them when they’re angry. Leavitt approached the offseason and every series since the kickoff of its preseason scrimmage as if its entire roster had a personal vendetta against humanity.

There’s plenty of talk in other corners of the state about how Cheverus and Kennebunk dominated their leagues this season, but there’s no greater gap right now between an undefeated team and its competition than the air bubble between Leavitt and the remainder of the Campbell Conference.

Of course, they’re playing a pretty good brand of football 15 miles to the north at Spruce Mountain, where the Phoenix are riding the crest of the first playoff win in school history all the way to Wells for what should be a fantastic semifinal.

It still might not be a garden spot of peace and harmony, but three years after its forced metamorphosis, Spruce Mountain has survived the residual rancor from the combining of two programs that perpetually disliked one another.

The hiring of a head coach, Walter Polky, from outside the circle has worked out well. So did Polky’s offense, which probably drew quizzical looks the first day of the first summer camp, but has evolved swimmingly. Spruce’s version of the spread option (college football fans, think of Nevada and Navy’s offenses having a kid) has been the perfect attack for Peter Theriault, Matt Vigue and friends.

Win or lose Friday night, with hardly a senior in the bunch, the Phoenix will be even more phun to watch next year, when they might enter the phray as the phavorite.

And then we have the Class D division of the Campbell Conference, from which our little-region-that-could is guaranteed to have a representative in the first state championship game under that banner since 1986.

Winthrop/Monmouth has earned the right to open that discussion. The Ramblers are 9-0 in the first season of their cooperative chemistry experiment, and they’re getting a lot of motivational mileage from the belief that those of us in the media still don’t respect them as the team to beat.

In fairness to whichever of my brethren unwittingly perpetuated that myth (hey, ‘t’weren’t me; I haven’t seen W/M play since September), it has been easy to overlook the Ramblers because all their big games were early in the season. They ran the gauntlet of Lisbon, Old Orchard, Dirigo and Oak Hill in authoritative fashion.

Western D didn’t offer its top teams a playoff bye week, but to some degree the Ramblers have enjoyed a bye month, for better or worse. It’s worth reminding ourselves that they flaunt a veteran quarterback, a one-two backfield punch, and a deep defense that attacks in waves. The favorite? Darned straight.

They’ll be tested Friday night. Dirigo is the under-the-radar team in the league. Not only do the Cougars have a knack for winning the close games with defense, but perhaps you’ve heard that they’ve played in a couple of championship contests in other sports over the years. Yeah, once or twice.

Then come the mirrior-image programs separated by about eight miles of perpetual road construction, Oak Hill and Lisbon.

There’s no mystery about what you get from the Greyhounds at this time of year: Grit in the face of adversity and an effort dwarfing their size. My only prayer for Lisbon is that its injured star, Quincy Thompson, gets to play in some capacity.

In two years at Oak Hill, coach Stacen Doucette has so effectively developed the Raiders’ brand identity that I almost forget his Lisbon ties. What I like best about what he’s done in Wales is that you can watch the Raiders on film or in-person every weekend and never see the same thing twice. They find different ways to beat you, which is obviously an asset at this time of year.

Six teams. Four games. And one guy, hamstrung by time and space and deathly afraid that he’s going to miss something special.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.


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