ORONO — Before Friday, the only deficit the Leavitt football team faced was one point early in last week’s regional final.

The Hornets trailed by double digits not once, but twice in Friday’s Class C title game against Maine Central Institute. But Wyatt Hathaway made winning plays at key moments and Leavitt rallied back to win the state championship with a 30-24 victory.

Hathaway scored on a 19-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to put the Hornets ahead, and then intercepted a pass with a minute left to lock up Leavitt’s first state title since 2013.

“(MCI quarterback Ryan) Friend, he was abusing our defense with one play,” Hathaway said. “He would just pick, and whichever corner jumped he would just throw to the other one.

“I saw him kind of look off, and we noticed on film he likes to look off when he throws, so I saw him look at No. 3, and so I jumped it. When I jumped it, I don’t think he saw me coming, and I just jumped right in front of the kid. It hit me in the chest, I fell to the ground, and it feels amazing.”

The interception came two possessions after a Leavitt drive that will likely be remembered for years to come.

Damion and DaSean Calder ran for 53 total yards and picked up three first downs, and then Hathaway scrambled around the backfield before finding an opening on the right side.

“On that last call, we were going trips and we just kept pounding jet over there,” Hathaway said of the play. “A couple times, I think it was No. 76 (Isaac Bussell) in the second half, he just kept flowing, and I saw him and then the DT spun back and moved the other way.

“I just pulled it and I am pretty sure the slot (defender) turned around because he thought I fumbled it. I just pulled it, ran — and I am pretty sure it was Brent Grant, he saved me with an amazing block.”

Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway and his son, Hornets quarterback Wyatt Hathaway, embrace after winning the Class C state championship Friday at the University of Maine’s Alfond Stadium in Orono. Dustin Williams photo

The touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion, made the score 30-24 as the Hornets outscored the Huskies 16-6 in the second half.

MCI surprised Leavitt to start the game with a successful onside kick, which, according to Huskies coach Tom Bertrand, was not intentional.

Five plays later, Friend connected with Dominic Wilson on a 16-yard touchdown pass to put MCI up 6-0.

Leavitt struggled early on both sides of the ball, and its first drive went backwards before a punt.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, the Huskies surprised the Hornets again, this time with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Friend to Will Russell for an early 12-0 lead.

“They were in man coverage and we have playmakers out there, so we tried to mix it up and be a little bit unpredictable,” Bertrand said. “Just try to see what they were giving us. They were stacking the box and they were successful, for the most part, and we made some plays but not enough to get it done.”

Friend finished the first half with three touchdowns through the air and 179 yards.

The Huskies’ thunderous start put the Hornets in unfamiliar territory, trailing by two scores.

However, the veteran Leavitt squad wasn’t going to fade away and concede the game.

“We never got that feeling at all,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “Anyone who watched MCI play last week knows that’s a good football team when its at full strength, so we knew it was going to be a close game and we didn’t expect to blow anybody out. We knew they were going to bring it.”

Leavitt went on a nine-play drive before punting, but MCI fumbled the kick and the Hornets recovered 29 yards away with four minutes left in the first quarter. Six plays later, DaSean Calder ran in from three yards out to put the Hornets within four points, 12-8.

Calder isn’t the tallest, but he proved to be one of the toughest on the field Friday, running up the middle and into defender’s chests all game to the tune of 126 yards and two scores.

Leavitt’s DaSean Calder breaks a tackle against Maine Central Institute in the Class C state championship game Friday at the University of Maine in Orono. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Last game, go all out,” Calder said. “I was willing to do whatever it takes to get the extra yard, and the line was blocking really well, they pretty much opened it up for me.”

On the next Leavitt drive, Hathaway scrambled around before rolling left and lobbing a pass to the back right corner of the end zone to Cam Jordan, who reached out with his toes just inside the line for a score that put the Hornets ahead 14-12 in the second quarter.

Friend wasted little time throwing his third touchdown pass of the half to put the Huskies back on top, 18-14.

At halftime, the Hornets’ focus narrowed.

“(Senior) Riley Parmenter came over and said, ‘We can stop these guys, we can defend these guys, and we just need to move onto the next play.’ So great leadership on his part,” Mike Hathaway said.

Wyatt Hathaway said the Hornets wanted to send the seniors out on top.

“It means a lot,” Wyatt Hathaway said. “Before the game it didn’t really kick in because I was just ready to play, but at halftime we were talking about this is our last 24 minutes together as a group and as a family. I just wanted to make plays to give them the gold ball they deserve.”

The Huskies, though, weren’t done. They received the ball in the second half and ran right down the field and scored on a 13-yard bruising run by Bussell to re-establish the double-digit lead, 24-14.

DaSean Calder scored again for Leavitt on its next drive, reaching the end zone on a 14-yard scamper up the middle to pull the Hornets within two points.

Cam Jordan sacked Friend on the next drive to force a long fourth down which was not converted, giving the Hornets the ball back which led to the Hathaway touchdown.

“I was just thinking, ‘We need a stop now,’” Hathaway said. “That was the only thing going through my head. After I walked in I got a little flashback of all of us as little kids winning championships together. It’s so unreal. Next year isn’t going to be the same without them.”

Mark Hermon picked off a pass to hold the 30-24 lead, then the next MCI drive was finished by Hathaway’s interception.

Facing the most adversity they faced all season, the Hornets held strong.

“Just telling them to keep going,” Mike Hathaway said. “It’s a 48-minute game and we came to play the full 48. If it was overtime, we would have played that, too.

“We have a lot of resolve and a lot of character so we weren’t going to give up on anything and stayed positive. The kids executed well on the field.”


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