Wyatt Hathaway said he hopes high school administrators in Maine talk to student-athletes before they make a decision on whether sports – including football – can be played this fall during the coronavirus pandemic.

Five states plus the District of Columbia have already pushed football into 2021. But Hathaway and players from at least 10 Maine high schools were on the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf Monday in temperatures near 90, taking part in the Maine Elite Passing Camp and preparing for a season they know is in doubt.

“I mean for a lot of athletes, it means the world to be able to play football, or basketball, or run track or anything,” Hathaway said. “I think the people in charge, the school administrators, hearing it from coaches and parents might not do it. But I feel like if they gave the athletes the chance to talk to them and to give them their reasonings, I’m sure they could figure something out.”

“I feel like (football) is definitely something we can do, especially if you regionalize schedules and limit the travel distance that each team has to travel,” said Hathaway, who led undefeated Leavitt to the 2019 Class C state title.

The Maine Elite Passing Camp is in its fourth year under the direction of three of Maine’s top high school coaches: B.L. Lippert of Cony, Mike Hathaway of Leavitt (Wyatt’s dad), and Kevin Cooper of Bonny Eagle. It’s the first time the camp, which runs through Thursday, has come to Portland.

The 118 registered participants are split into three groups of roughly 40. Coaches are not involved in a session if any players from their own school are on the field, to comply with Maine Principals’ Association and school restrictions regarding off-season coaching. Each group practices for two hours, then departs as the next group arrives, wearing masks until they have answered a series of screening questions. Masks were not worn by coaches or players during the workouts.

For Wyatt Hathaway, the camp is a chance to show why he was tabbed as a preseason high school All-American by Sports Illustrated. He routinely dropped tightly spiraled passes more than 40 yards down the field into waiting hands. His teammates for the day included James Opio and Brandon Boyle of Deering High and Thornton Academy tight end Costa Gikas.

Gikas and Opio agreed decision-makers should listen to the athletes – and their willingness to adapt in what would, at the very least, be a very different season. The MPA has already delayed the first day of practice from Aug. 17 to Sept. 8, with no games until Sept. 18. Some superintendents throughout the state – including all of those in York and Cumberland counties – have yet to allow school-based conditioning workouts.

“If you give us certain guidelines to follow, we’re going to do all we can to follow those guidelines,” said Gikas, a senior tight end and linebacker. “We’ll cooperate. We just want to play football.”

Opio is Deering’s returning quarterback but spent most of his day practicing as a wide receiver, quickly becoming one of Hathaway’s top targets in a session-ending 7-on-7 scrimmage.

“I think we’ll be able to make it work if we don’t have fans and limited players at the games, so less people can get affected by COVID,” said Opio, who added he would be very comfortable with playing despite the virus outbreak.

Boyle, a junior who showed speed and ball-tracking instincts on the field, said Deering’s players have a more personal reason for wanting to play this fall.

“Just to get out there and have fun. Especially since our teammate (Blaine Alves) just recently passed away. We want to just to do it for him, because he was going to be our captain. We just want to get on the field and do it for him, and for his family obviously,” Boyle said.


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