Lewiston High School quarterback Brian Seguin (15) runs away from a would-be tackler during a playoff game in 1987.

LEWISTON — As the current edition of the Blue Devils football team begins its quest to become the first Lewiston squad win a state title in 30 years, the legacy of the last team to do it remains strong.

The bond among the 1987 Class A champions, and between the players and their coach, Skip Capone, remains strong, too. And the appreciation for what they accomplished together only grows with time.

It was a bond that started as a collective chip on the team’s shoulder — a resolve to prove the doubters wrong — and cemented by the realization that they would have to do it together.

“I don’t want to say they overachieved but I think they certainly surprised a lot of people,” Capone said. “It was a really close group that believed in each other, and that mentality just got better each week.”

A bold plan

Coming off a 3-5 record and two years removed from getting blown out in the state championship by Cheverus, few prognosticators had the Blue Devils challenging the Stags and perennial power Biddeford for supremacy in Western A.

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But Capone had a bold plan. He scrapped the Wing-T offense the team had run the previous year with junior quarterback Brian Seguin and installed the wishbone.

Few, if any, teams were running the triple-option in Maine high school football at the time. But with the dynamic Seguin and much of the offensive line returning, and a bevy of big-play backs to utilize, Capone saw a scheme that could make the Devils tough to stop.

“We felt that with Brian at quarterback, the triple-option would be a real good fit for us,” Capone said.

Seguin was in the mold of Doug Flutie — diminutive (5-foot-8) but tough, a big-play threat whether using his arm or his legs.

Surrounding him in the backfield were a half-dozen backs, most of whom would end up collecting over 500 yards rushing before the season was through. Fullbacks Val Beaudet and Joe Wailus pounded defenses inside, while running backs Colby Asselin, Bob Finch and Vance Patton burned them outside.

“It really made a big difference being able to toss it off to those guys,” Seguin said.

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“It was the perfect offense for us because not only did we have speed in the backfield, we had power,” Asselin said.

Keeping an even keel

Though it would take some time to perfect, the players grasped the new offense quickly and beat Sanford, Deering and Massabesic to start the season. Having four of five starters back on the line — seniors Sean Moores and Rick Meagher and juniors Mark Carpenter and Jason Versey (joined by sophomore newcomer Eric Lachance) — certainly helped. So did the fact that opponents still had to account for the passing game thanks to the backs and receivers Dave Hesler, Troy Booker and Kevin Plourde.

Not only were the Devils deep and talented, they jelled quickly as a team. Capone knew utilizing all of that talent would require managing some egos, too.

“Skip was really good at keeping everyone on an even keel,” Asselin said. “He’d say, ‘OK, we’re a team, guys. I know everyone wants to get the ball but you’ve got to pick your spots.'”

With their humble superstar quarterback setting the tone, the players bought in. Not only did they have to be unselfish, but cliques and divisions between upper- and under-classmen weren’t allowed on the team.

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John Cortes, whose son Tanner is the starting quarterback and all-conference safety for the current Devils, remembers as a sophomore special teams player and third-string fullback that year being simultaneously in awe of Seguin and counting on him as an approachable leader.

“If we had a question, we’d ask him,” Cortes said. “As a sophomore, we’d be running drills next to him next to him and Finch and Wailus and Beaudet and it was fun. The coaches were tough on us, and we were tough on each other.”

The doubters were tough on the Blue Devils before their first big test, a Week 4 showdown with the Mike Landry-led Biddeford Tigers, then the pre-eminent program in Class A.

“It turned for us in the first Biddeford game, I think,” Seguin said. “That was when no one predicted us to win, not even the hometown paper.  It was a big confidence-booster.”

Lewiston emerged from its 28-14 victory believing it had the mettle to compete for a state title. That confidence grew with the big crowds that starting going to watch them play at Lewiston Athletic Park.

After moving to 5-0 with a win over Noble, the Devils encountered what many thought was their next obstacle, Cheverus.

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“Cheverus had a really good team that year, and they were big,” Asselin said. “We battled that game and end up going to overtime, winning it on a field goal. I think that game was probably our hardest game.”

Lewiston stormed out to a 14-0 lead at home, but the Stags rallied to move in front late, 28-21. Lewiston rallied to tie it in the final minute on Seguin’s touchdown pass to Booker, then prevailed in overtime on Shawn Sampson’s 27-yard field goal.

Not surprisingly, the Blue Devils suffered a letdown, and their only loss, the following week to a strong South Portland team, 28-14.

Getting up for the final two games of the season — Portland and Edward Little — wouldn’t be a problem, especially with the swarming defense rounding into dominant form under defensive coordinator Ted Moccia.

“Skip and Ted always taught team tackling,” Cortes said. “The coaches wanted all 11 players on that pile.”

Led by Carpenter (who had 16 sacks), hard-hitting linebackers Beaudet and James Spugnardi and Seguin at safety, they blanked the Bulldogs, 13-0, then held an explosive Red Eddies offense to six points through the first three quarters of the Battle of the Bridge before EL put on a fourth-quarter charge that fell short in a 33-22 Lewiston win.

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Peaking in the playoffs

Compounding the Devils’ satisfaction with ending the regular season with an 8-1 record and the top seed in A West was the fact that the loss knocked Edward Little down to 6-3, fifth place and out of the playoffs.

It wouldn’t have mattered if the Eddies were there, no one was stopping the Blue Devils now. Lewiston encountered Portland again in the semifinals and, led by Seguin and Beaudet, ran the ball down the Bulldogs’ throat in a 29-6 win.

Next came Biddeford in the regional final, and any hope the third-seeded Tigers had of pulling off the upset essentially disappeared when a Lachance hit injured quarterback Mike Ouellette. Lewiston rolled, 35-7.

As the season progressed, the Devils morphed from a team that relied on big plays to score into one that could grind out long drives. That served them well in the playoffs, especially the state championship game against a Mt. Blue team that featured a dominant defense of its own.

“We knew it was going to be a backyard brawl,” Capone said.

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Lewiston landed the only scoring blows against legendary coach Ray Caldwell’s Cougars on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon at Bowdoin College. While the defense limited Mt. Blue to just 113 yards of offense, the offense scrapped the passing game due to the conditions and waited for its opportunities.

Seguin seized the opportunity to put the game away in the third quarter with an 87-yard touchdown run that made it 12-0, which ended up being the final score. It was the quintessential play in a season that would ultimately win Seguin the prestigious Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s best football player.

“I haven’t seen many kids like him in this state in 30 years of coaching,” said Capone, now an assistant coach at Bates College. “He could do it with his feet. He could do it throwing the ball. He was explosive and quick on his feet. And he’d know three steps ahead what the defense was going to do. He elevated everyone else on the team.”

The Devils basked in the glory of proving the doubters wrong for good, perhaps a little too much. Seguin, who went on to play baseball at the University of Maine, thinks the emotional hangover of that title may have carried over into the winter and spring seasons.

The 1987 season still brings the players on that team together on occasion. Versey organized a 25-year reunion for the team in 2012, drawing players back from all over the country. As recently as last week, Capone and a group of players still living locally got together to reminisce.

Capone and the players think a Lewiston run for the title could spur another reunion at Fitzpatrick Stadium later this month, as the Devils try to earn their first championship in 30 years.

“Most of the guys came back for that reunion and it didn’t feel like it had been 25 years,” Seguin said. “We’re connected. We’re bonded by that (season), and it’s a special thing.”

Material from Bim Gibson’s “The Battle of the Bridge. The History of Edward Little and Lewiston Football” was used in this story.

Lewiston High School head football coach Skip Capone, right, and Mt. Blue High School coach Ray Caldwell share a lighter moment the day before the Class A state title game in 1987. Lewiston toppled Mt. Blue in the state final, 12-0.

The Lewiston High School football team poses for its team photo.

Lewiston’s Coby Asselin, right, breaks loose for a 23-yard gain during the third quarter of a game against Portland High School in 1987. Chasing Asselin are Portland’s Robbie Swett and Steve Abbott. Lewiston won the game, 12-0.

 


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