TURNER — Jace Negley doesn’t have a secret when it comes to being one of the best linemen in the state.

Instead, he said his success comes down to his work ethic, consistency and the teammates surrounding him.

Negley, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound senior offensive and defensive lineman, is a key part of Leavitt’s (10-0) undefeated season and its chance to win a second consecutive Class C state championship when the Hornets face Oceanside (10-0) on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Lewiston High School.

Leavitt’s Jace Negley celebrates with the football after recovering a fumble against Thornton Academy last month in Saco. Negley’s fumble recovery set up the go-ahead touchdown as the Hornets came from behind to defeat the Golden Trojans 35-21. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald

Negley’s humble nature is something that has carried him far and permeated through the entire offensive line, according to Leavitt assistant coach Bill County. This is County’s first season as Negley’s position coach, a role he took over when veteran lineman coach Dave Bochtler retired following the 2022 state title game.

County said Negley was like “an inherited gift,” from Bochtler.

“I inherited what I consider to be the best lineman in the state of Maine, which is quite a privilege,” County said. “Jace doesn’t make any mistakes. It’s fun to watch him play. He is the exemplar for everything that we do.”


Specifically, County said, Negley excels as an offensive blocker and brings a “business” mindset to each set of plays.

“We talk about schemes, we talk about why this isn’t working, how we can fix it, what technique he can use, then we go back on the field and win both those game,” County said.

Defensively, Negley plays nose guard, and County said he can be “very disruptive,” and that if he were to play on either side of the ball, “teams would simply run away from him.”

“In football terms, if you can defeat the center’s block and fill that gap, you prevent guys from pulling in either direction,” County said. “It’s a high quality to have in a defensive tackle.”

Negley said that if he must choose, he likes playing defensive line the most.

“If I had to pick between a third-down sack and a pancake block for a touchdown, I’d take the third-down sack,” Negley said. “But I do love them both.”


Speaking of sacks, Negley said his favorite came during last week’s C South regional final game against Fryeburg, which Leavitt won 36-32. Negley batted down three passes and recorded a sack late in the fourth quarter, helping the Hornets advance to their second consecutive state championship.

Leavitt head coach Mike Hathaway, who also considers Negley the best lineman in the state, said Negley’s strength, agility and size have been key to his on-field dominance. According to Negley’s Hudl account, he benches 265 lbs., squats 405, and deadlifts 455.

“For a big guy to be able to move and generate that much power is a big advantage for him,” Hathaway said. “I think he plays with really good technique, as well. That’s a big difference. When you watch linemen in Maine, sometimes people can bull rush guys and be strong, but to see a guy who can play up and down the line of scrimmage and hit some pass rush moves, a couple of spin moves where he knocked down passes last week against Fryeburg. … He’s pretty versatile.”

Hathaway said Negley’s abilities are pretty equal on offensive and defensive lines, and “his toolbox is full on both sides.”

Hathaway also said that among the Leavitt lineman during his 22 seasons as Hornets coach, Negley is “near the top of the list.” Other names near the top of that list include former teammates Beau Mayo, last year’s Gaziano Offensive Award winner, Jack Boutaugh, currently playing at the University of Maine, as well as Matt Pellerin, who played on Leavitt’s 2009 state championship team and went on to play at Maine Maritime, UMaine and Husson.

“Matt was the best defensive lineman I’ve ever seen in Maine,” Hathaway said. “I would put Jace right up there with him. On the offensive side, Beau had a tremendous year last year, and Jace is like Beau but 50 pounds heavier.


“I’d put him right there with all the good guys that we’ve had that have moved on to play college ball.”

Negley is in the midst of the college recruiting process and has received offers from a few schools and visited a few others.

Leavitt’s standout quarterback, safety, kicker and punter, Noah Carpenter, said what impresses him most about Negley is that he is always the first one out on the field before practice and the last to leave after.

“He just doesn’t stop until he gets things right,” Carpenter said.

Negley said he always thinks of the quote, “My jersey looks like this, so that my quarterback’s jersey looks like that,” when on the field protecting Carpenter from getting hit.

The brotherhood within the Hornets is what he’ll miss most when he graduates in the spring, Negley said.

“I’m going to miss the togetherness of the team, like the brotherhood we have here is just unbeatable,” Negley said. “We do everything together, from eating, to practice, to playing to hanging out.”

County said he expects Negley to bring the steady dominance he always presents to Saturday’s Class C state championship game against Oceanside.

“He’s always in control,” County said. “His anger never gets away from him, he’s just a solid football player looking for the next time to make a play.”

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