The team has been riding that wave ever since.

“We knew, the first game we played this season,” tackle/guard Nicole Keith said. “We’ve never had a winning season. For us to win a game like that right off the bat, a lot of us were in tears because we hadn’t had this in so long.”

The Mayhem will be playing in Friday’s Affiliated League championship game in Charlotte, N.C. as part of the IWFL’s Championship Weekend. The Affiliated Bowl kicks off at 10 a.m.. The Mayhem will be facing the Knoxville Lightning.

Maine finished the year 4-4, but had a 3-2 record in the Affiliate League, which features new and developing teams. Maine was the top-seed while Knoxville was second. The early win and seeing the potential of this group from the start made the championship game a reality for this team.

“It’s been nice,” said Keith, a former Poland athlete who now lives in Lewiston. “It’s a shock to us, but from the first game, the chemistry was there and everyone has always been pushing each other.”

The Mayhem are in their first year, but many on the squad rose from the roster of the Maine Rebels, a previous IWFL team in Maine that was sold to a New Hampshire group. Many of the players wanted to continue playing, so the Mayhem were formed.

“If anybody had told me this six or seven months ago that this is what we’d be doing, we’d think they were lying,” defensive coordinator and Lewiston grad Justin Bisson said. “This is better than any of us ever imagined. We gelled together as a team better than anybody imagined. The girls just played their hearts out.”

The roster features a handful of local athletes: Frankie Curtis (Oak Hill), Kristianna Springer (Oxford Hills), Sam Sargent (Oxford Hills), Jen Meyers (Edward Little),  Ariane Bowie (St. Dom’s) and Nicole Rush (Auburn).

The rest of the lineup features players from Gorham, Scarborough and Biddeford. Assisting head coach Jeremiah Rohner are Bisson, Chris Therriault, who coached Lewiston Middle School and FLY football, and Wayne Aspinall, who coached with the Rebels for five years and also coached in Oxford Hills youth leagues.

“We brought in a bunch of new rookies this year, but the majority are returning players,” said Bisson, who had coached a season with the Rebels and had also coached the NEFL’s Maine Sabers. “Mixing in the new girls, we got the Mayhem and had some success. They’ve been overachieving. We hope they can overachieve one more game and hopefully, bring the championship back to Maine.”

Bisson said the team has a handful of game films of the Lightning, and he feels the Mayhem can challenge them Friday. The game will be streamed live on the IWFL channel on YouTube.

“We think we can compete with them,” Bisson said. “We think we can beat them.”

The Mayhem features a tenacious defense led by Curtis, who led the nation in sacks. Springer was among the IWFL leaders in interceptions.

“We need to go down and play our style of football,” said Bisson, whose team scored an average of 18.4 points per game and allowed 24. “We’re a very aggressive defensive team. We like to blitz a lot. We like to attack and create a lot of pressure. We created a lot of turnovers. We created 18 turnovers in eight games this year.”

Knoxville averaged 14.6 points and allowed 24.8. The Lightning are in the top 10 in the league in offense, averaging 189 yards on the ground per game (sixth in the league) and 28.5 passing.

The Mayhem offense is built around a strong offensive line and quarterback Theresa Hendrix. The running attack is led by Alicia Jeffords and Paula Beaulieu. Springer and Shannon Nicely have been Maine’s top receivers.

“It’s a great team to watch,” Bisson said. “That’s what I’d like to get people to see and understand. There’s a stigma that this is just girls’ football. It’s a real football game.”

That’s what lured many of these athletes to the sport. Many had played other sports in high school but never had the opportunity to play football. Despite juggling jobs and family obligations, they were still willing to don the pads and put on the helmets.

“In high school, football was always the guys’ sport,” Keith said. “We were always out there cheering them on. When I came across this team, it was an opportunity to play the sport I love.”

Keith discovered the Rebels through her cousin, Kayla Keith, who was a player at the time. She joined the Rebels and played a few seasons before taking last year off because of injury. She returned this season to play for the Mayhem.

“I like playing a contact sport, proving that I can play just as well as the guys can,” Keith said.

Though many of the Mayhem had played together, there was still a growing process this season. New players needed to adjust and the team had to find cohesiveness. They’re still always looking to recruit players.  The team has just two dozen players, with about 19 expected to make the trip.

“With the new team that we had, some of us were veterans but we brought in a lot of rookies,” Keith said. “We worked really well as a team. In the past, you have your drama and stuff like that, but this year, we’re a team. We’re a family. Everyone is helping each other.”

The team practiced in Gorham on Wednesday evening and then began making the trek to North Carolina. The heat may be a factor for the Mayhem, but they’re excited about Friday’s opportunity.

“Offensively, we like to attack,” Bisson said. “We’re a running football team. We like to throw as well. We have some good skilled girls and we have a good offensive line that will open some holes for them. We’re going to play our style of Maine football, and hopefully, we can bring that down South and show the Southern girls how we do it up here in the North.”

[email protected]

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.