TURNER — Jack Boutaugh saw what winning a Class C state championship was like, and what it took, first-hand as a sophomore starter on Leavitt’s offensive line in 2019.

Last year Maine only played 7-on-7 football due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that, for the most part, left lineman out of the game.

Now, Boutaugh, a senior, is trying to play catch up and hone his skills in different facets of the game — from being a better leader to nailing down the little elements of blocking a defender and getting by a lineman on defense. Boutaugh’s efforts have transformed him into one of the best linemen in the state, according to Leavitt head coach Mike Hathaway.

“I think he ended up being one of the best two-way linemen in our league as a sophomore,” Hathaway said. “I don’t think many people in Class C were better than him. In terms of offensive and defensive lines, he’s big, and that’s a big part of it, but his technique is good and he is also very smart. When you combine the size and technique and intelligence and the power, that makes a pretty good lineman.”

Hathaway doesn’t think Boutaugh grew much between his sophomore to senior seasons, but he improved his strength and his technique. 

“He’s a lot stronger than he was two years ago,” Hathaway said. “He’s been in the weight room. I think his balance has gotten better. Just little things like that that come with being mature.”

Boutaugh’s hard work during the pandemic-ridden year and into this season was inspired by seeing last year’s seniors miss out on their final year of football.

“I’ve done a lot of stuff on my own,” Boutaugh said. “It was tough to work as a team, so it was finding motivation within yourself to hopefully be given the opportunity we have now. I think that seeing what the seniors last year missed out on and didn’t get the chance to have, I think it puts so much more weight on our backs to have a great season.”

Boutaugh, along with some of his fellow lineman, competed on the indoor and outdoor track teams during the spring. He also worked out on his own and kept himself ready to go for the senior season he hoped would happen. All of that work, though, doesn’t compare to the learning that comes from being back on the field and playing games.

Reeve Twitchell (57) tries to block teammate Jack Boutaugh during a drill at Tuesday’s practice in Turner. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“Defensively, well, both sides, I’ve learned a lot in the last couple weeks, more than I have in the past year,” Boutaugh said. “Just being able to come out here and get some good experience, real reps. I feel there’s a part of my leadership that I feel maybe I am missing out on. I wasn’t able to grow with the seniors the year before because of the lost season, so I am missing a chunk of growth here.”

He also has improved his preparation in the film room. Hathaway said Boutaugh has gained a better understanding of the big picture while also becoming engrossed in the nuances of schemes and situations of the offensive and defensive lines.

“He pays attention to details and asks a lot of really good questions,” Hathaway said. “He’s always working on his technique, too, and that makes a good lineman. … Unless you really break down the lines, it’s hard to say what they really do, but he can execute a variety of blocks. He can reach block, he can down block, pull, pass protect, he can get in the second level and get on guys, and he’s great in two-for-two zone-type of schemes.

“You find over time that some linemen are good at some things and not all of them, but he’s improved in all of them. He’s really improved his football IQ this summer.”

On offense, Boutaugh, usually at right tackle, protects the quarterback and opens holes for ball carriers. As a defensive tackle, he chases the opposing team’s quarterback and creates openings for his teammates.

“Ask the two linebackers behind him and they’d say he means a lot because they don’t get touched much,” Hathaway said. “He’s doing a great job, he’s keeping linemen off them, he’s stout against the run and can get after the quarterback in the pass rush. He’s an every-down lineman, which, in high school, everyone kind of has to be. But there’s still personnel packages, and he’s playing all of them.”

In three games this season, Boutaugh has 23 tackles, including two sacks and four tackles for loss.

When asked which side of the ball is his favorite, Boutaugh leans toward offense. 

“I like to play defense because you can go out there and make some plays and get the recognition, but personally I like the O-line better,” Boutaugh said. “You’re able to go out there with a group of guys as a team and play.”

Boutaugh has aspirations to continue playing football, like he has since second grade, at the college level. At the forefront of his mind this week, though, is Leavitt’s (3-0) matchup with Cape Elizabeth (4-0) on Friday.

“I think our team as a whole is really confident this season,” Boutaugh said. “We’ve just got to keep the streak going. I am more excited for Cape than any of the other games we’ve played. Really, I think, they’re the toughest team we’ve faced, and it’s brought this team together to beat them.”

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