Coming off a strong junior season in 2019 as a wide receiver for Portland High’s football team, Joseph Pike hoped to use his senior year to impress college coaches and earn a spot at the next level.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and high school sports in Maine ground to a halt in March. And once the Maine Principals’ Association finally released its fall sports offerings on Sept. 10, they announced there would be no football season for Pike or anyone else.

“When they made that decision,” said Pike, “the one question I had for my coach (Jason McLeod) was, ‘What are the seniors going to do about college?'”

Enter the Maine Football Coaches Association. The MFCA will sponsor a series of combines across the state, this weekend and next, to provide seniors deprived of a fall season the opportunity to show college coaches what they can do.

The first combine will be held at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium at 5 p.m. Saturday for players in Cumberland County. On Sunday, combines will be held at Cony High in Augusta at 9 a.m. and Lewiston High at 3 p.m. On Oct. 11, a combine will be held at Old Town High, more details to come.

About 80 players have registered so far, with more expected.

Leavitt quarterback Wyatt Hathaway will be one of the players attending the senior combines. “This is going to give me the chance to show what I can do to the coaches who are recruiting me, and maybe seal the deal for them wanting me,” he says. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“This will be good for the seniors,” said Skip Capone, who has been involved in Maine high school football since 1983 and is now an assistant coach at Lewiston. “There is no do-over for their senior season. But we wanted to show these guys there are people willing to do something for them. For those seniors, we’ve got to make sure we’re not leaving them high and dry. If they have aspirations to play next level, we want to do whatever we can to assist them.”

The combines will include a 40-yard dash, a standing broad jump and a shuttle drill (where players sprint five yards in one direction, touch a line; sprint 10 yards in another direction, touch a line; and then sprint five yards in another direction). It also will include individual position work, which will be videotaped.

NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from attending because of the pandemic there can be no off-campus recruiting through Dec. 31  but having access to results from the drills and videotape of the positional work is important.

“We will watch that,” said University of Maine Coach Nick Charlton, noting that all recruiting is done virtually during the pandemic. “We will be able to get numbers from the guys in terms of testing and also film on them. … We want to see the guys work out. It’s really important.”

Colby College Coach Jack Cosgrove said that while many of the players have video from their junior seasons, the combine will add another level of exposure.

“This camp will be very helpful,” he said. “We’ve noticed a lot of the young men in this class are doing similar type things, putting a workout together on the field, positional type things that are helping their situation.”

For players like Portland’s Pike and Leavitt’s Wyatt Hathaway, the combines offer opportunity.

“Hopefully I’ll get some recognition from college coaches,” said Pike, who led Portland in catches and receiving yards last year. “I’m hoping I can get on the map and see where I can go. I’m going to try to be the best I can and hopefully get some notice.”

Hathaway, who quarterbacked Leavitt to the Class C state championship last year, is being recruited for both football and basketball. While he’s glad to have the chance to display his throwing skills at the combine, he’s happier for his teammates who didn’t get to play much last year as juniors.

“I’m really glad they’re doing this for the other seniors who haven’t been able to play varsity yet, who were behind some of our seniors last year,” said Hathaway. “As for me, this is going to give me the chance to show what I can do to the coaches who are recruiting me, and maybe seal the deal for them wanting me.”

Mike Hathaway is Wyatt’s father and the head coach at Leavitt. He said the coaches “owed it to the seniors to do whatever we could to help them.”

Once the fall season was called off, Mike Hathaway and Capone talked about ways to get exposure for the seniors. Two weeks ago, they met with the executive board of the MFCA and convinced it to sponsor the combines. Capone said over $3,000 has already been donated by private sources to offset costs. Players are asked for a donation, but it is not mandatory. About 50 coaches are donating their time to run the combines.

“I’m just so happy we’re going to have a chance to play some football and show college coaches what we can do,” said Portland’s Pike.

Capone said that combines will be held at a later date for York and Oxford counties. Both are currently listed as yellow in the Maine Department of Education’s color-coded system. Schools in York and Oxford counties are not allowed to compete in sports or even to hold practices.

“When they turn green again,” he said, “we’ll have something for them.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: