Ryan Friend’s first choice is to return to Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield this fall to quarterback the Huskies for a third straight season. Friend would love to lead his team to a third state championship game in four years.

As he eagerly awaits the Maine Principals’ Association’s decision on fall sports — a final decision is expected  Thursday — Friend said he and his family have discussed him transferring to an out-of-state school that will play football for his senior year.

“I’ve considered going to school out of state if there’s no season,” said Friend, who threw for 2,255 yards and 35 touchdowns last season, and also ran for 775 yards and eight scores. “We’ll figure out what to do, either transfer or stay here and train and get ready for college.”

That may not be necessary.

Friend and his sports-craving peers received a bit of good news Wednesday, when a key MPA panel recommended all fall sports — including football — be played. The MPA Sports Committee recommended fall sports can proceed provided they are played under safety guidelines established by individual committees for each sport.

The MPA’s decision Thursday has high school student-athletes across the state anxiously awaiting word.


“I’m just continuing to work out,” Friend said. “We have a new offense we’re putting in, so I’m making sure I have that down. Coach (Tom Bertrand) says ‘You have to hope for the best but expect the worst.'”

Gardiner senior offensive lineman Quinton Martin, a student representative on the school board, said he tries to use the doubt about the season to his and the team’s advantage.

“It makes me work even harder than I did before, because it’s not guaranteed. Every practice, every everything is like it’s your last,” he said. “That’s been the biggest message. … To do one more rep, to be happy to be there, to get one more in, to do it right. We might not be able to do it anymore.”

Owen Axelson, facing, works through drills with teammates Wednesday in Oakland. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Martin said the prospect of a lost season is “on my mind constantly,” but he felt encouraged by Wednesday’s development.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” he said. “If anything, that only boosts my optimism. … I’m just hoping that things continue to move positively.”

Hannah Huston, a senior center-midfielder on the Mt. Ararat field hockey team, said she is eagerly anticipating some clarity on the fall sports season.


“I am definitely nervous, pretty anxious,” she said. “I don’t know what to expect. On the one hand I’m really hopeful we can have some sort of season. The thought of the whole season being called off is really scary. I’ve tried not to think about that. I’ve talked to a lot of girls on my team and other players on other field hockey teams, and no one knows what to think or how to feel. The waiting game is hard. We’re trying not to have super high expectations, knowing it can change on a daily basis.”

Huston acknowledged it would be frustrating to have a season be cancelled.

“It’s definitely something I never thought we’d have to think about,” she said.  “This whole thing makes me feel like I almost took it for granted, just seeing how easily everything can change.”

Belle Hemond, a sophomore on the Mt. Ararat field hockey team, said she, too, is anxious.

Messalonskee High School boys soccer players hydrate during a break in practice Wednesday in Oakland. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“I’m a little nervous about the decision,” she said. “I kind of feel pretty good about it, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I will be relieved once we know.”

Hemond said the Eagles plan to hold a conditioning workout Thursday.


“We’re all pretty nervous, but we’ve been doing conditioning together and it’s gone well,” she said. “We’ve worn the masks, social distanced and had hand sanitizer. I know we don’t care if we only get a few games or have to play teams close by. We don’t even care if we have to wear masks if we have to. Hopefully, this will work out.”

Messalonskee boys soccer player Owen Axelson said Wednesday’s news provides added motivation.

“I saw some of the regulations (the MPA) were proposing or some of the new rules in the game on Twitter,” Axelson said. “There’s limited number of people in the box on corner kicks, no slide tackling if there’s people within six feet (of a player with the ball). It’ll be really different, but it’s great to see positive news, and I know it’s not confirmed or definite, but it’s great to see a step in the right direction.”

“There’s nothing more we’d rather do than play,” added Cooper Barrett, Axelson’s teammate on the Messalonskee boys soccer team. “Because of everything that’s going on, we get that safety is the No. 1 priority, and we don’t want to put anyone in danger, any players, fans or coaching staff.”


Staff writer Dave Dyer and sports editor Bill Stewart contributed to this report.

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