Leavitt will play its Class C South regional football final Saturday with heavy hearts.

Peter Casey

The Hornets were dealt shocking news Friday morning when they learned assistant coach Pete Casey, father of sophomore Tommy Casey, had died in his sleep the night before.

“It was a rough day. It happened early this morning before school,” head coach Mike Hathaway said. “Some of our coaches went over there early in the day, and then we met with the kids later on in the morning, and kind of let them know, and spent a lot of time with them in the afternoon and some time with the family in the afternoon. And then we went out and had the best practice we could have.”

Hathaway said the practice was a typical “day before the game” practice, but it was a welcome one for the Hornets.

“I think it was good. I think everybody needed to get out and do something physical. When you’re concentrating on what you’re doing it takes your mind off the other stuff,” Hathaway said. “So I think it was good for us to be out there, good for us to be together, and good for us to just keep moving forward.”

Tommy Casey joined his team at practice Friday.

“He wanted to come over and practice. And when I walked over there this morning, pretty much the first thing he said to me is that ‘whenever we play this game, I’ll be there,'” Hathaway said. “You know, it was good for him to see the whole team and try to start the healing process a little bit.”

Leavitt athletic director Ryan LaRoche said he did not know the cause of death.

Casey had been with the Leavitt program for the past four or five seasons, according to Hathaway, coinciding with Tommy’s years with the Tripp Middle School team. But his time working with Hathaway and many of the Hornets’ other coaches and players goes back further.

“Coach Casey coached a good chunk of these kids all the way up through the youth programs, both in basketball and football,” LaRoche said.

“There’s a lot of kids on our team — probably every freshmen, sophomore and junior, he’s coached those guys since they were in the third and fourth grade,” Hathaway said.

With the Hornets, Casey worked with the young defensive linemen, and also kept the defensive stats.

“When I open up my email at 7:30 the morning after the game, everything’s done and emailed to me,” Hathaway said.

Assistant coach Dave Bochtler has known Casey since they played together on the University of Maine football team. LaRoche remembers working out at the YMCA with Casey after he returned to the area from Maine.

Casey graduated from Livermore Falls High School in 1982 before attending the University of Maine. He had a career in insurance, and Hathaway said Casey and Bochtler worked together in that field as well.

Besides Tommy, Casey leaves behind a daughter, Mallory, and wife Tammy.

After practice, the Hornets held their team dinner, and Hathaway said “there was a lot of people there, and kind of everybody hugging each other and doing that thing to pull us closer together.”

Saturday’s game is another opportunity to bring the team, the program, and the community together. Hathaway said he told his team to channel its energy the “right way.” The team already wanted to win “pretty bad” against Fryeburg — which dealt Leavitt its only loss this season — but Casey’s death could add some emotion.

“They all want to be supportive of Tommy, and do whatever they can for the Casey family, and I think going out and playing football is a big way that they can do that,” LaRoche said.

Saturday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Libby Field in Turner. Hathaway said he thinks his team will be ready to go when 3:15 rolls around, which is when the team arrives at the school’s gym.

“I told them today, all we can do is go and lay it on the line. There’s not a lot to it other than that. We’ll go out and play as hard as we can, and that’s the most important thing,” Hathaway said. “Coach, he really wouldn’t want us to miss a beat, he wouldn’t want us to worry over him, he wouldn’t us to change anything to do. He would just want us to go out and play really freaking hard, so that’s what we intend to do.”

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