Sloat said that kids today get a bad rap, but the “caliber” of the recipients of the Lewiston Auburn Metro Chamber President’s Awards shows that “our future is in good hands.”

Nine local high school senior athletes, eight local high school coaches and four local college senior athletes recieved Chamber President’s Awards, and they were just one part of the ceremony at Ramada Inn.

The “main event” of the evening, as committee Chairman Jack Kivus called it, was the induction of four new members into the Hall of Fame. Former Lewiston High School athletes John Delahanty, Ronald “Pep” Gagne and Julie Johnson, and Lewiston High and Bates College coach Edwin “Skip” Capone, bring the total number of inductees into the hall to 147.

The quartet’s collective achievements could serve as a crystal ball that sees the Hall of Fame in the future including some of the ceremony’s other nominees, who won championships, set records, or just made a mark on Lewiston-Auburn athletics. That’s exactly what the foursome did during their careers.

Gagne was inducted posthumously. The three-sport standout for the Blue Devils in the 1950s passed away in 2009. Later in his life, Gagne said, “I wasn’t that good” to his nephew, Norm, when approached about trying to get into the Hall of Fame.

So after Pep’s death, Norm decided to go after the induction anyway. It was fitting, since “Uncle Pep” always told Norm to never give up. Gagne was selected for the Hall of Fame on Norm’s second attempt.

Kivus said the committee dug deeper and deeper into Gagne’s accomplishments when considering him for inclusion because his name kept coing up from multiple people. One of those that helped verify Gagne’s worthiness was this year’s Earl B. Austin Jr. Award winner, Bim Gibson, who while researching for an update of his book on Twin Cities basketball found out that Gagne was a 1,200-point scorer for the Blue Devils.

That seemingly makes him the program’s all-time leading scorer, since Chris May is the only Blue Devil boys’ player with his name in the rafters for breaking the 1,000-point mark. 

Taking into consideration his accomplishments on the basketball court along with what he did on the football field and baseball diamond, Kivus called Gagne one of the best athletes to ever come out of the Twin Cities.

Less than a decade after Gagne’s Lewiston football career came to an end, Delahanty’s began. The gridiron was where Delahanty amassed most of his accomplishments, and there were many. He was a standout, two-way tackle, but the record books show him to be an all-time great kicker.

Blue Devils coach Norm Parent never let Delahanty attempt a field goal, not because he thought Delahanty would miss but because Parent figured if the team got close enough to kick a field goal, then they were close enough to go for the touchdown, Delahanty said.

Delahanty did make 66 extra-points in his Lewiston career, and his brother, Tom, who introduced John at the banquet, said he was the most reliable placekicker in Maine high school football during his day.

Delahanty continued his kicking (and blocking and tackling) prowess at Bowdoin College. He was finally allowed to kick some field goals, and of course he made them, at one point holding the program mark for career field goals made and longest kick. He also has the distinction of being Bowdoin’s last “straight-on” kicker. Delahanty said some people would call his style a “relic of the game,” but he prefers to call himself a “vintage kicker.”

He might only be the second-best kicker in the Hall of Fame class, though. Johnson could very well claim to be the best.

The All-Conference and All-State girls’ soccer player for the Blue Devils continued her career at Clemson University, where she helped turn the fledgling team into an Atlantic Coast Conference and national contender in her four-year career.

Johnson was also a standout in track and basketball. In the latter sport, Johnson went from a girl who couldn’t shoot and was an OK ball-handler when longtime local coach Craig Jipson first saw her play at a YMCA to a high school all-star.

That was thanks in part to a determination and work ethic that Johnson learned from her parents, who bought Johnson a bag of soccer balls at her request. She then went to a kickboard at Edward Little High School and perfected her craft.

“In order to achieve your dreams, all you really need (are) balls,” Johnson said, reaping a few laughs.

Skip Capone didn’t coach Johnson, but her time at Lewiston coincided with the later stages of Capone’s tenure as Blue Devils football coach. His 14-years at the helm included 10 playoff appearances, two coach of the year awards and a state championship in 1987.

Capone later moved on to a role as an assistant coach for the Bates football team, while also serving various roles in athletics at Lewiston.

He said he was “not going to take a whole lot of credit” for his coaching successes. Capone noted that he had many great assistants along the way, as well as good athletes.

But for all the victories Capone has accrued in football and other sports, he said he has used athletics as a vehicle to help make kids better.

“Wins and losses come and go,” Capone said. “The sun’s going to come up tomorrow. At the end of the day it’s just a game.”

“When he moved here in 1983, I don’t think anybody understood the legacy that Coach would leave behind or the number of players that he would influence,” Lewiston Athletic Director Jason Fuller said of Capone, adding that he believes his mentor could coach any sport.

Capone proved just that by earning the 2015 KVAC Coach of the Year Award in girls’ lacrosse in only his second year on the job.

He continues to coach football at Bates, as well.

President’s Awards were given out to senior athletes who have made a difference on and off the field. Lewiston High School seniors Matt Charest, Brendon Croteau, Adela Kalilwa and Abdi Shariff-Hassan, Edward Little High School seniors Sarah Hammond, Emily Jacques, Brooke Lever and Ben Steele, and St. Dominic Academy senior Austin Roy were the high school recipients. Many were standouts in multiple sports.

Bates seniors were Jack Allard (men’s lacrosse), Hannah Jeffrey (women’s lacrosse) and Ahmed Abdel Khalek (men’s squash). Former Lewiston High School and University of Maine at Farmington (Class of 2015) baseball star Joe Sullivan was also honored.

“It’s a great day to be a Bobcat, (and) it’s a great day to be a Blue Devil,” Capone mentioned in his speech, noting the many Lewiston and Bates honorees.

Skiing state championship teams from both sides of the river received “Flashback to Fame” Awards. One of the newest additions to the banquet, the 1951 EL ski team and 1971 Lewiston ski team were honored on the 65th and 45th anniversaries of their respective titles.

Former Bates football player and coach Oliver Cutts received the Pioneer Award. The 1896 graduate was on the Bobcats’ first team in 1983. After moving on to play at Harvard, Cutts was named an All-Time All-American by Walter Camp. Cutts later returned to Bates as athletic director in 1922, and he coached the football team for three years.

Gibson’s recognition of the Austin Award hit home for the longtime Lewiston-Auburn sports fan and historian. This fall, Gibson will equal Austin with 25 years as “The Voice of Walton Field” and EL football. Gibson’s cousin, Mickey Philbrook, buffered the two iconic voices for one year after Austin told his spotter, Mickey’s father, Fuzzy, to find a new public-address announcer.

Gibson deflected any sentiment of being an equal to Austin.

“I’m not filling his shoes, believe me. Earl Austin is the voice of Walton Field, and he always will be,” Gibson said. “It’s an incredible honor. Earl was such an institution in our community.”

Gibson has seen some of the Hall of Fame’s inductees play during his lifetime, and researched or heard stories about many others. While he may be an EL graduate and teacher in Auburn, he is a fan of athletics on both sides of the river. So even he can appreicate what the Lewiston-dominant 2016 Hall of Fame class represents.

“They’re a very good class,” Gibson said. “Good people.”

Tom Delahanty said a lot of people thought the Hall of Fame would die out after five or six years, but it has lived to see its 33rd induction class and continues to thrive.

EL alpine ski coach Jodd Bowles, one of eight local coaches who received Chamber President’s Awards after leading their respective teams to state championships, said “this community and the way it comes together” is what made his team’s title possible. And just about everybody honored at Sunday’s banquet made a note to thank the communities of Lewiston and Auburn for their accomplishments.

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