Leavitt’s Wyatt Hathaway wins the interception during the final moments of the first half of Thursday night’s football game at Leavitt. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

TURNER — Longtime Leavitt assistant coach Chris Gray watched the final seconds tick off Thursday night’s 7-on-7 touch football scrimmage with Lisbon and pressed play on a Libby Field tradition.

“Might be the only time we get to hear this,” Gray said as the opening notes of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” drowned out the applause of a few senior parents in the bleachers.

Leavitt and its seniors celebrated an easy win over the visitors, who are scheduled host them at Thompson Field next week if Androscoggin County maintains its “green” designation under the state’s updated COVID-19 risk assessment for schools, which will be announced Friday.

Playing their second game in five days, and for the second time since Turner schools were shut down Sep. 23 due to positive COVID-19 cases, the Hornets held their Senior Night on Thursday. While the total size of the gathering was well under 100 and the usual sing-a-long to the home postgame anthem was muted, Leavitt, the reigning Class B state champions, easily defeated the reigning Class C champion Greyhounds, 54-8.

Little attention was being paid to the scoreboard by either side, though. The Hornets, for example, sent their seven seniors out to play the start of the second half, even though it meant many of them, including linemen, had to play out of position in the passing frenzy of 7-on-7.

“It was fun having all seven of us on the field at once,” senior quarterback Wyatt Hathaway said.

“We’re not even back in school fully, but just being together is good,” Leavitt junior Hunter Hayes said. “I was a little nervous we weren’t going to get anything in.”

The Greyhounds were playing in their third game, having faced Oak Hill and Morse. A matchup with Mt. Ararat and the rematch with Leavitt are planned for next week.

Since July, Lisbon has gathered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at first for conditioning, then with more football-related practices when state guidelines permitted. Games replaced practice on both days this week, and the Greyhounds, like many football players, are still trying to get used to a completely altered fall routine.

Leavitt’s Adrian Blake tries to evade a tag by Lisbon’s Colby Bailey during Thursday night’s football game at Leavitt. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“The toughest thing is getting into the mindset to play a game,” Lisbon coach Chris Kates said.  “We’ve played two senior games, tonight and Oak Hill, and they come out and they’re so fired up and they’re ready to actual play a real game. We’re having a hard time getting that mindset right now.”

“It’s better than nothing, but it’s not the same,” Greyhounds senior Justin Le said. “It’d be much better if we had pads on. It’s a completely different game, almost. No contact, no nothing.”

“It’s definitely less intense, but you still have to come with the same mindset,” Le said.

The Greyhounds may only get together for football twice per week, but they know the grass isn’t necessarily greener for schools such as Leavitt, and certainly not for those in Oxford County, whose fall season hasn’t started due to its “yellow” designation.

Leavitt’s Wyatt Hathaway tumbles to the ground with the ball while being chased by Lisbon’s Daytona McIver and Kevin Gallie during Thursday night’s football game at Leavitt. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It helps going to school full-time because we get to see everyone in class,” senior Adam Gosselin said.

The incentive to compete and improve remains for both teams with the possibility of a tackle football season in the spring.

“The coaches have been saying take it one day at a time,” Leavitt senior Denver Taylor said.  “We’ve got to keep trying to get better in case we have a season in the future, so we’re ready for it.”

But the week away from school and football — Leavitt only had one practice prior to playing Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale last Saturday — reinforced that it isn’t just about football this fall for the Hornets.

“It may not be what we were looking forward to for our senior night,” Wyatt Hathway said, “but us being on the field all together, having a good time, hanging out after practice, that’s just the best part of it.”

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