TURNER — Carrying the axe that has become his team’s “chip away at the stone” trademark, Adam Smith led the Leavitt football team in a slow procession Friday evening from the locker room, through the chain link fence and onto Libby Field.

The thumping beat of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared over the public address system, but the home crowd remained eerily silent. Smith and his teammates gathered under the south goalpost in a prayer of thanksgiving.

Seniors then lined up in the middle of the field to be recognized at their final regular-season home game. Smith, wearing a silver Leavitt football shirt, was introduced along with his mom, Sue, to the last and loudest round of applause.

Amazing stuff, for a young man who was nose-to-nose with death as an ambulance raced from Cumberland to Portland six days earlier, its occupant having suffered a shattered spleen in a game at Greely.

“I remember it, but I’m trying to forget about it,” Smith said, only a few hours after being released from Maine Medical Center. “I’m feeling a lot better. I’m tired, though. Hopefully this gets me amped back up.”

Smith handled one, final interview with local media — his last of many Friday afternoon and evening — and then walked with a slight limp to a row of vehicles behind the end zone. He watched Leavitt’s 48-10 romp over Spruce Mountain from the safety and relative warmth of assistant coach Chris Gray’s truck.

He honked the horn each time Leavitt made a big play. It was a noisy night. Leavitt amassed 613 yards of total offense. Fellow seniors Levi Craig and Max Green combined for four touchdowns through the air. Chandler Lajoie, wearing No. 55 in honor of Smith, notched a pair of quarterback sacks.

“I’m really glad I got to make it to my senior night. If I would have missed this, it just wouldn’t have been the same senior year, especially against a team like this,” Smith said. “Football is my favorite sport. I love watching it. I love playing it. I’m glad I got here.”

Leavitt (5-2) lost consecutive games to Marshwood and Falmouth and then barely held off Greely, 20-14, while worried about its teammate.

The Hornets believe Smith’s devastating injury and emotional return may be the building blocks for an unforgettable playoff run.

“We just came out with a lot of energy,” Craig said. “Every time someone made a play we were there boosting them even higher, to get even more energy in us, like we haven’t been doing all year.”

“In the locker room things are a lot closer, you can tell,” Smith added.

It was an emotional week on many fronts for Leavitt, which has experienced the deaths of three former players — Madison Daigle, Brandon MacDonald and Ben Boulay — in the past five years.

Coach Mike Hathaway’s nephew, Keegan Melanson, was released from a Boston hospital Wednesday after spending five days in recovery from open heart surgery.

A hole was discovered in Melanson’s heart during a preseason physical. He also watched the game from the end zone, in a truck parked next to Smith.

“It was really hard to practice. We had a few things going on this week, Smitty obviously being one of them. We had guys in and out of practice, coaches in and out of practice,” Hathaway said. “Credit to the kids. We talked about blocking out distractions, and once the game started, to focus on what they were doing. They did a nice job.”

Hathaway was in the middle of a conversation with defensive coordinator Mark Bonnevie in the coach’s office when Smith walked in without knocking Friday afternoon.

“You could see Mark’s face light up when Smitty came in,” Hathaway said. “It just had that effect on everybody. I’m sure it was a big lift for him to be home, but it was a big lift for our guys, too, to have him there and in the locker room.”

Leavitt held Spruce Mountain to 33 yards in the first half while building a 35-0 lead.

Phoenix assistant coach David Frey, leading Spruce Mountain due to Walter Polky’s one-game suspension, felt his team was powerless to stop the tide of emotion.

“Senior night, the kid getting hurt, they’ve got a lot of reason to play,” Frey said. “All week long we were worried about it.”

Smith enjoyed a steady stream of visitors throughout his hospital stay.

Hugs were frequent Friday, even if people seemed to forget that Smith was supposed to avoid serious contact.

“It’s been great. It’s really been helping me get through the week,” he said. “It just shows that people care. It’s great to get all the support from the community and all my friends.”

[email protected]al.com


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.