Leavitt coach Mike Hathway echoed the downcast mood of Leavitt’s locker room following its 20-13 loss to Fryeburg Academy in the Class C South final on Saturday night.

“To be honest, I’m probably still in shock,” Hathaway said.

It was impossible to discern how much the loss had to do with the shock from how Hathaway and the Hornets were still trying to process the sudden death of assistant coach Pete Casey less than 48 hours earlier was impossible.

“I haven’t really had time to digest it that much because there’s been so much to do,” Hathaway said.

After moving their semifinal game against Cape Elizabeth to Lewiston High School due to field concerns, the Hornets badly wanted to keep the regional final on their home field as a tribute to Casey, a Livermore Falls High School alum and former University of Maine football player who died suddenly on Friday night.

Leavitt players, coaches and administrators had to scramble to get Libby Field ready for the 6 p.m. kickoff after three inches of snow fell on it Friday night into Saturday.

Dozens of volunteers came to the rescue on Saturday morning to get the field in playing shape.

Casey, 54, also coached youth sports in the area and has two children who attend Leavitt — daughter Mallory, and son Tommy, who started on offense and defense for the Hornets on Saturday night.

“It was a big loss. Pete was a great man,” Hathaway said. “He was just a real positive guy around the kids all of the time, really dedicated to the program, would do anything for anybody. He had a great sense of humor. He’s going to be missed.”

Hathaway was proud of how his players responded to the adversity, which included losing starting quarterback Wyatt Hathaway to a knee injury late in the first half.

“To ask a bunch of 16-year-old kids to do what they had to do this week and come out to play a game that seems like an afterthought with everything that happened is tough,” Hathaway said. “For them to play as well as they did and as hard as they did and keep their emotions in check, it’s a credit to them, a credit to their parents. They’ve raised good kids.”

Hathaway credited the team’s seven seniors for leading the team through a difficult weekend.

“They’re great leaders for us and they’re great kids,” Hathaway said. “I love those guys.”

Vikings’ voyage was special

In his parting words to his team after Friday night’s stunning 21-14 overtime loss to top-seeded Portland in the Class A North final, Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said he wasn’t sad about the loss but that the loss meant he wouldn’t be able to coach the same group of kids again.

The Vikings graduate 13 seniors, most of them starters or significant role players whose impact went well beyond their physical contributions.

“I can’t say enough about the senior leadership we had this year, the focus they had,” Soehren said. “When I was talking to them before we played Cheverus (in the regional semifinals), I said ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if all of a sudden we didn’t end up playing Portland?’ And they were all, like, ‘We want to play Portland. We want to play them again.’ And that’s a testament to these kids and their competitiveness.”

Oxford Hills never ducked during one of the tougher schedules in A North. It included two close losses to Portland and a split against crossover opponents Sanford and Bonny Eagle, both A South semifinalists.

The Vikings expected to not only reach their first regional championship game since 2000, but to take the next step to their first state championship game since 1999.

While they fell one play short of that goal, Soehren wanted his players to remember what they did accomplish.

“We knew we had a good team,” Soehren said. “Our goal wasn’t to lose in this game. It was to play in that state championship game because we believed it. But it’s 18 years since we’ve been here. I don’t think the kids understand how hard it is to get to this point when you don’t have that great winning tradition.”

Raiders ready for more next year

Oak Hill’s hopes of upsetting defending state champion Wells in the Class D South championship were virtually over before they began, as sophomore QB Gavin Rawstron was injured on the Raiders’ first play from scrimmage.

The bad news is a doctor’s examination confirmed initial fears that the wrist was broken, and swelling in the wrist has to subside before they can take x-rays to confirm there was no other damage to the joint, according to Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette.

The good news is that the injury was to his left, non-throwing wrist, and, according to Doucette, there is a good chance that Rawstron, who is the basketball team’s starting point guard, could be back at some point this season.

“If there are no secondary issues, it could be four-to-six weeks,” Doucette said.

Doucette said his team reacted to the injury to Rawstron “probably like any team would when their leading offensive and defensive player goes out. I think it was an emotional shock. From a game functioning standpoint, it was damaging, to say the least.”

Sophomore Sam Lindsay and Liam Gallagher alternated in Rawstron’s place and did as well as they could under the circumstances, Doucette said. The Raiders never lacked in effort, but the physical strength disparity between the two teams was apparent and something he hopes the returning players commit to improving during the off-season.

The Raiders overachieved by ascending from the seventh seed to the regional final, Doucette said. A talented nucleus of underclassmen, led by Rawstron, Gallagher and Lindsay should have them poised to meet what will be loftier expectations next year and improve on this year’s 5-6 record.

“Offensively, we’re feeling very positive with our younger groups,” he said. “If you look at our statistics, besides (senior wide receiver/cornerback) Caleb Treadwell, our offensive leaders were all sophomores. Defensively, we have some work to do with the young players, but that’s the same with any other team.”

Oak Hill graduates 10 seniors, including seven or eight starters. Those losses will be felt on and off the field, Doucette said.

“We lose a lot of linemen, and that’s what our strength was in the upper class,” Doucette said. “And I think the leadership of our seniors was the glue that held everyone together. They were hard workers. They cared.”

Dirigo’s directions unknown

History will show Dirigo had two blemishes in its much-discussed move to Class E, both supplied by Freeport.

The second setback, a 28-13 loss in Saturday’s final, wasn’t the ending Cougars were hoping for in 2018. But the fact that they played into November and didn’t back down from Class E’s clear front-runner on its home field showed they had come a long way from a year ago, when the team was hanging on by a thread due to low numbers and injuries.

“The kids have been great. They worked really hard for the program and for themselves,” Hersom said. “I just think it was a heck of a year. Hopefully, we can move forward.”

Where Dirigo’s next move will be after this 8-2 season is still unknown. With reclassification and possible eight-man football on the horizon for next season, the school may have a number of options to choose from for the program’s future, including possibly forming a co-op with another school.

The Cougars will graduate six seniors from their 21-man roster, including their offensive and defensive leaders, Alex Gorham and Jack Lavorgna. The foundation for the future should be sturdy, though, led by eight sophomores who now have two years of varsity experience under their belt.

Regardless of what comes next, the Cougars have reason to celebrate the 2018 edition of Dirigo football, Gorham said.

“I’m proud of everyone,” he said. “We didn’t even know if we’d even have a football program or where we would be playing football or what kind of football we’d be playing. Everyone came all season, from July on, they worked hard all season. Everyone stuck with it.”

Leavitt’s Wyatt Hathaway runs the ball down the field, chased by Fryeburg Academy’s Ethan Burke and Josh Frye during Saturday night’s Class C South championship in Turner. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


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