Oxford Hills quarterback Atticus Soehren releases a pass under pressure from Lewiston’s Danny May at Gouin Athletic Complex in Paris in September 2019. Brewster Burns photo

The college football recruiting trail got a lot bumpier for Oxford Hills’ Atticus Soehren and dozens of seniors across the state over the summer.

“Not being able to have that opportunity to visit campuses and do the college (recruiting) camping circuit over the summer is a big loss for a lot of kids,” said Soehren, a senior quarterback who led the Vikings to the Class A semifinals last year.

Football players’ drive to draw the interest of college coaches this fall seemed to be stuffed on third down when state officials the Maine Principals’ Association’s decided to bar tackle football this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The players may not have to punt on being seen by recruiters, though, thanks to the Maine Football Coaches Association and longtime college and high school coach Skip Capone.

The MFCA is sponsoring a football combine Oct. 3 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. The combine gives players a chance to compile important information for, and establish contact with, college coaches.

Soehren has tried to make up for the lack of in-person meetings by ramping up social media, phone and text contacts. His father, Mark, is Oxford Hills’ head coach and has many contacts in football circles to help get the word out to potential suitors. And he got a big boost when MaxPreps, a popular website resource for recruiters, named him one of the most overlooked football recruits in the northeast.

“A lot of seniors don’t have those resources,” he said. “Right now, I’m looking for a lot of film and stuff to send out to coaches, and I know a lot of seniors are looking for the same opportunity. Something like this is a really good resource for us.”

Earlier this week, Capone sent information about the combine to high school football coaches across the state and invited them to register their seniors.

Registration is free, although participants are encouraged to donate up to $25. Net proceeds from the event will be split between Shriners Hospitals for Children and MFCA coaching mentor programs.

“We wanted to make it as accessible to every senior in the state that has aspirations of playing at the next level,” Capone, who coached Lewiston to a state championship in 1987, said.

Organizers are prepared to add a second combine if registration exceeds state rules limiting gatherings to 100 people or less. Factoring in support staff and the college coaches the event is hoping to attract — spectators will not be permitted — Capone estimates there will be room for a maximum of 70 seniors to participate in a session.

“We’re still working out the logistics but we have another site secured for another date right around (Oct. 3) to have a second combine,” Capone, who plans to work with the Lewiston football team this fall, said. “Whether we have 10 kids or 110 kids over the limit (for the first combine), we’re going to give them an opportunity. I don’t want to cut it off.”

A number of college coaches have already committed to attending the combine. Capone, a former assistant at Bates College, expects to add more to his list in the coming days and hopes to have one representative from each of Maine’s colleges in attendance.

The combine is scheduled from 5-8 p.m. Capone said it will include most of the elements of a typical combine, in which prospects compile “testing” numbers in speed, strength and agility drills that recruiters use. Prospects will then break out into position groups to show their gridiron skills.

Organizers will film the event and compile a spreadsheet of testing results for prospects to distribute to recruiters. Capone said he isn’t sure if prospects will be able to meet with coaches individually, “but at least the coaches can put a name to a face and the kids can put a name to a face and they can start exchanging information.”

“We can’t guarantee anything, but at least we can try to open the lines of communication and get these kids the exposure they deserve,” Capone said.

Organizers are encouraging seniors to register through their football coach, but are also planning to make online registration available by the weekend.

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