As Leavitt football coach Mike Hathaway prepares for Saturday’s Class C state championship game, he can’t help but look back at the six stars that have led the Hornets to the doorstep of greatness from a pit of despair just 53 weeks ago.

“It was a tough year (last year), losing that (regional final to Cape Elizabeth) like that,” Hathaway, who has led his alma mater to three state titles, said, “but for those six it was an eternity, and their redemption last week was resounding, and having a chance to finish with a state championship is going to be epic.”

He is referring to the six returning starters from last year’s team: Seniors Dayton Calder (13 total touchdowns, over 1,000 all-purpose yards), Brett Coburn (eight receiving TDs, 11 sacks), Sawyer Hathaway (eight receiving TDs, 4 interceptions) and Beau Mayo (two sacks, four force fumbles); and juniors Noah Carpenter (45 combined TDs) and Jace Negley (seven sacks).

Returning starters for the Leavitt football team, which plays in Saturday’s Class C state final, are, from left, Brett Coburn, Dayton Calder, Sawyer Hathaway, Jace Negley, Beau Mayo and Noah Carpenter. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“Those six have honestly been six of the top seven players in the league this year, outside of (Nick) Laughlin from Cape, and they all balled out in the biggest games,” Mike Hathaway said. “Their determination, leadership, toughness, everything about those guys has been top-notch every single week and has set the tone for everything we have done.

“Our stars have played like stars and our role players have followed their lead and starred in their roles.”

Since that loss in last year’s regional final, when Cape Elizbeth scored the go-ahead TD in the final seconds, the Hornets (10-0) have a been a hard-charging train, starting as soon as the offseason began.


“The team, with no hesitation, bounced right back,” Mayo, a guard and linebacker said.

“Maybe the next week after that loss is when we all started getting in the weight room,” he added. “Over the summer, all we had to do was shoot each other a message; no one would ever turn down going to the field or to the weight room. We all had the same goal this season, we just had to make sure we were prepared, which is what we did in the offseason.”

The group, as a unit, had the same mentality about moving on.

“Some people, when they go through a heartbreaking loss, it takes a long time to recover, but not for us,” Coburn, a tight end and defensive end, said. “The loss just gave us more drive. Made us work harder to earn what we believed we deserved.”

Calder, a slot back and cornerback, said not making it to the state final last year, after taking an undefeated record into the regional final and holding a late lead, has fueled this year’s team to be fully committed and working as hard as they can to not repeat that feeling again.

The Hornets went all-out in everything they did.


“We had a mentality going into the season that if we were gonna lose, there was going to be no stone unturned or no play that we didn’t try our best to perfect,” Sawyer Hathaway, a wide receiver and safety, said. “There’s always things to improve on, but our team’s chase for perfection drove us here and we worked every day from the beginning of summer doing everything we possibly could.”

Carpenter, one of the state’s top quarterback who also plays safety, said the offseason work was done with a purpose, “making sure that we made the hours count and not just count the hours.”

There was work in the weight room, not only to get stronger, but also to keep bodies healthy — and area in which the Hornets have been relatively fortunate this season.

When they weren’t working out or practicing plays, the players often were breaking down film.

“During the long, hot days in the summer, it felt like if we weren’t on the field we were inside watching and dissecting film,” Coburn said. “Even when school started, study halls were filled with watching films and practices were long and hard.”

The thing that has kept the team together, something that the returning starters echoed from each other, was a feeling of brotherhood, according to Negley, a two-way tackle, and Coburn.


“When I think of a team, I think of us,” Coburn said. “We are brothers. Nobody holds grudges against one another. If there was a problem, we would discuss it with the whole team and unanimously create a solution to the problem.”

Carpenter said it’s been special to watch the team come together.

Really, it’s been a process that for many of the team started years ago in youth football.

“We have all been through a lot together, and we had to bond over that COVID season loss and we’ve all been playing together since we were 9 years old, so there’s nothing that can replace the bonds we have with each other,” Sawyer Hathaway said.

That togetherness came to a head in last week’s regional final, a 43-0 win over Cape Elizabeth after edging out the Capers 21-20 during the regular season.

“We were all in together and playing our square, and not trying to do more than what we could handle,” Carpenter said.


After clearing the Cape Elizabeth and regional final hurdles, the Hornets have continued doing what they’ve done the past 52 weeks while preparing for Saturday’s state final against Medomak Valley, at Cameron Stadium in Bangor at 2:30 p.m..

“We haven’t been preparing differently for this game, we are doing the same thing we have done all year,” Negley said. “I’m focusing on playing my square to the best of my ability.”

Now, finally, the Hornets are in the game they’ve all been waiting for — a journey that started after Leavitt won the state title in 2019, then hit speed bumps of COVID in 2020 and of the Capers in 2021.

“We’ve all been dreaming of this day to come since we first started the sport, and now it’s here,” Mayo said.

The four seniors were part of the program when it won a third state title under Mike Hathaway three years ago, while the two juniors were still in middle school waiting their turn.

Calder said he wants to go out with a title of his own, just like older twin brothers Damion and DaSean did three years ago.

The family connection also has special meaning for Sawyer Hathaway.

“This, for me, was something we always talked about growing up, and I watched (older brother) Wyatt win one with my dad, and him being the QB, and me and Dayton and Nick (Morin) watching our older brothers star in the game,” Sawyer said. “That’s when we knew … it’s time to get this for ourselves. To win my dad’s fourth ring, that would mean the world to me. Not many coaches win four, and to win this would be the perfect way to go out.

“It can’t get much better than the opportunity in your last football game ever to win a state championship with your dad.”

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