TURNER — Leavitt junior Hunter Hayes might concede his senior teammates have a greater sense of urgency to play tackle football this fall. But no one wanted to get back on the gridiron more than him.

Leavitt junior Hunter Hayes carries the ball during Thursday night’s 7-on-7 football game against Lisbon in Turner. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Hayes is back with the Hornets after his sophomore season was cut short in the third week of Leavitt’s undefeated run to the Class C state championship by an injury to his left foot.

Because of the coronavirus, the 7-on-7 touch football he is playing now only loosely resembles the brand of 11-man tackle football Hayes was engaged in when the injury occurred in a 42-19 win at Foxcroft Academy.

“I was playing defense,” said Hayes, a safety and multi-purpose weapon on offense before going down with the injury. “I was backpedaling and the ball was thrown at me. I just broke on it and when I planted my foot in the ground, it just didn’t feel right.”

A postgame trip to the hospital confirmed Hayes’ suspicion that something was off. X-rays showed a Lisfranc injury, a displacement of one or more of the long metatarsal bones that connect the ankle with the toes.

“It’s the same one (Patriots quarterback) Cam Newton had last season,” Hayes said.

“It was devastating to see Hunter suffer that injury last year,” Leavitt football and basketball coach Mike Hathaway said. “He is a kid that works very hard, shows up to everything we have, and is a great teammate. You hate to see a kid that does everything the right way lose out on being out there on the field in a state championship season.”

Recovering from the injury required two surgeries and arduous rehab, but Hayes still attended practices regularly and paid close attention from the sidelines, sometimes riding a motor scooter to keep off his feet.

“It was tough not being on the field, but it was really good seeing our team doing so well and winning states,” Hayes said. “I learned a lot just watching the older guys play and how they handled different situations, even seeing older guys like (then-senior) Garrett Jabbush and how their morale was pretty high.”

“He still was around all the time, helping out and such,” Hathaway said, “but to not play was killing him.”

Also a valuable member of the basketball team, Hayes “worked hard and made some good contributions as the season winded down,” Hathaway said, but, naturally, didn’t have time to get in prime basketball shape.

Nevertheless, the foot’s recovery was going well and Hayes was looking forward to summer 7-on-7 football and getting ready for his return to tackle football in the fall.

Basketball season had just concluded when COVID-19 turned the world and Maine high school athletics upside-down.

Hayes and the Hornets sweated through the limited summer workouts in hopes of having a tackle football season, but the Maine Principals’ Association decided in early September to bar tackle football due to it being deemed a high risk for transmission of the virus. Instead, schools could offer 7-on-7 touch football.

“It kills me there is no football for him this fall,” Hathaway said. “He is in great shape and worked hard all summer. He looks great in 7-v-7 and I’m glad he has at least gotten the opportunity to do that. I hope we can have a hoop season or that we get a chance to play some 11-v-11 football later this year so he can really do what he loves and worked so hard to rehab for. ”

Leavitt’s Hunter Hayes runs upfield during a recent home football game against Winthrop/Monmouth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The roller-coaster ride didn’t end for the Hornets after the MPA announced its decision. On Sept. 23, schools in Turner were closed for one week due to positive coronavirus cases, meaning fall sports had to take a break, too.

The Hornets returned to the field the day after Turner schools reopened with a game against Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale. They played their second game on Thursday against Lisbon.

While it wasn’t what he’d hoped for, Hayes was glad to at least get a chance to test his foot on the field.

“I’m definitely feeling back to 100 percent,” he said.

“It’s just good getting back playing football. It’s a lot better than just laying around on a scooter,” he added. “I think the whole team has that mindset, not just me, that we can’t take things for granted.”


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