Mt. Blue football player John Howard waves a special American flag in honor of the victims of Monday’s explosion in Farmington as the Cougars take the field Friday night for their game against Brewer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

On the first play from scrimmage, Mt. Blue running back Caleb Haines received a routine handoff, went right and scampered through the Brewer defense for a 56-yard touchdown.

Only a few minutes prior, the Cougars sprinted onto the field with senior lineman John Howard waving a black and white flag with a red stripe in honor of the firefighters injured, and the one who lost his life, Michael Bell, in Monday’s LEAP building explosion in Farmington. The team introductions were followed by a moment of silence. 

Mt. Blue football captain Kevon Johnson bows his head during a moment of silence to honor the victims of Monday’s tragic explosion in Farmington prior to kickoff of Friday night’s football game against Brewer in Farmington. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Haines’ touchdown was a page out of a movie script, the first play going for an emphatic and emotional score, and those in attendance getting the loudest they would all night, the majority of them wearing red in a show of support. 

The Mt. Blue cheerleaders even had red shirts made with “FARMINGTON STRONG” in bold, gold and glittery script across the front. 

Some in attendance had a closer connection to the tragedy than others. Some were Mt. Blue football fans, some were from the community wanting to come support. 

One Wilton firefighter, Brian, who declined to give a last name, said he wanted to be a part of the community during an emotional time. 


“It means a lot, just to show that the community supports Farmington,” Brian said. “Not only just the firefighters but (LEAP maintenance worker) Larry Lord, as well. He needs as much support as the firefighters. It means a lot and I feel a lot of support. 

“It’s kind of like a down time, but I still feel the support.”

Lord is a maintenance supervisor who helped employees evacuate the LEAP building prior to the explosion.

Wilton is Farmington’s neighboring town, which means Brian is close with Farmington’s fire department. 

When you train with the guys and work with them, you become a close-knit family,” Brian said. “And to have something like that happen so close in the community, it’s hard. … I was at work when it happened, then when I heard what was going on, I left work and went to go assist over there.”

Next to Brian was his friend, Betty Conant, who has a granddaughter on the Mt. Blue cheerleading squad. 


“My cousin’s daughter lives in the trailer behind there and lost the entire front of the trailer,” Conant said. “She was sleeping in the back when it happened. She got out, thank God.”

Conant, like many others in the packed bleachers at Mt. Blue High School’s Caldwell Field, was there to show support and escape her everyday life for a bit, something sports finds a way to do when it’s needed most. 

“Support,” Conant said. “We’re all here and we’re all strong.”

Mt. Blue cheerleader captain Sylvia Williamson, left, and her teammates gather together during a moment of silence to honor the victims of Monday’s tragic explosion in Farmington prior to kickoff of Friday night’s football game against Brewer in Farmington. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Mt. Blue head coach Scott Franzose said there weren’t football players directly affected by the explosion, but athletic director Chad Brackett said many students are “one degree of separation for them to people who were directly involved.” 

“It affected all of us,” Franzose said. “It affects me, as well. Just seeing everyone do what they need to do and make sure everyone is safe, really, whatever we can do.”

On Friday, Brewer players wrapped yellow arm bands below their jersey sleeves to show support, the most recent instance of support from opposing schools playing Mt. Blue this week. 


“I have got to say, I am really impressed with the teams that have come to play us,” Brackett said. “For instance, Brewer is wearing yellow arm bands in honor, Cony’s field hockey team came with red ribbons in honor. Just class acts all around.

“It kind of gives me the chills when I think of the other teams and what they’re doing. We’re playing Bangor at Kents Hill (on Saturday) on the turf and they’re bringing a donation.”

Volunteers Beckie Bowering, left, Terri Parker, middle and Lisa Walsh, right, had a hard time keeping up with 50/50 ticket sales at the entrance of Friday night’s football game between Mt. Blue and Brewer. All of the money raised was donated to the disaster victims. Many were tossing in 10 and 20 dollar bills and not even bothering to get tickets. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

While teams on opposing sidelines were showing their support in their own ways, the Farmington community showed its support by wearing red to the game and everywhere else they went Friday. 

“When you went through the community today, it was amazing,” Brackett said. “I had to go to Walmart today for something for the game, and 85 percent of the workers and customers there were wearing red. I went to my daughter’s middle school field hockey game, and 90 percent of the people from Farmington were wearing red.

“Stuff like that is just a great example of how truly great this community is. Everyone says that about their community, but I’ll tell you, the Farmington community is really close-knit and it is times like this where you really find out.”

The effects of Haines’ game-opening touchdown was felt throughout the team and the community.

“We just knew that that would set the tone and fire everyone up,” Mt. Blue quarterback Hunter Meeks said. “To see everyone in the community in red, they come together like they did tonight, it’s phenomenal, like nothing else.”

The Mt. Blue cheerleaders show off the special shirts they had made for Friday night’s game against Brewer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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