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Lewiston’s Deion Jackson wrote “Lewiston Strong” on the back plate of his football pads for the Battle of the Bridge football game against Edward Little on Nov. 1 at Don Roux Field in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Following one the most horrific events in Maine’s history came a reminder of the positive role sports can play in society.

A gunman walked into a Lewiston bowling alley and restaurant on Oct. 25 and killed 18 people, and the subsequent manhunt for Robert Card paused sports throughout the surrounding area and across the state until the following week.

One of the games postponed was the annual Battle of the Bridge football showdown between Lewiston and Edward Little.

That game ended up being moved to the following Wednesday, exactly a week after the mass shooting. An already big, important game became bigger and more important.

Although winning and losing definitely still mattered, the primary purpose of the game was to be one of the initial steps Lewiston and Auburn took towards healing and beginning to move past the tragedy.


Could a high school game played by high school kids live up to that responsibility? Should it?

Should we move on when 18 families lost important people, and 13 others who were injured had their lives altered only a week earlier?

The healing had to begin somewhere, and for many, that place and time was Lewiston High School’s Don Roux Field on Nov. 1.

“Tonight, we’re here to replace the visions, sounds and fears of last week with new memories,” Lewiston schools superintendent Jake Langlais said during a pregame ceremony. “Tonight, as these two teams meet again, we thank those who risked it all to protect and heal our community and the loved ones they kissed when they answered the call of duty and left home.”

Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller made sure that the Battle of the Bridge was more than a game.

Using what he would only say were “Lewiston connections,” he arranged for Will Ferrell, Rob Gronkowski, Robert Kraft and Mac Jones to create videos wishing the players and communities well.


First responders were honored on the field before the game. There was even a flyover. James Taylor sang the national anthem.

A large sign was hung on the side of Lewiston High School that said “L/A Strong,” an acknowledgement that the two cities are so close — separated physically by the Androscoggin River, and in other ways not at all — that it is impossible for tragedy within one’s borders to not have a nearly equal impact on the other.

Before the game even started, it was a success.

Before the Battle of the Bridge football game on Nov. 1, players from Lewiston and Auburn — from left, JJ Durr, Evan Madigan (8), Dylan Whitlow (51), Jayden Sands (10) and Bennett DuBois (4) — listen as an announcer reads off the names of those who died in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald

The Blue Devils ended up winning 34-18 and clinched a postseason berth.

“It was vital this community came together,” Lewiston football coach Jason Versey said. “A game can do that. A game can bring a community together and forget for a minute, to actually be engrossed in a playful competition that has some meaning and pride in it.”

As if fate somehow wanted to help the Twin Cities heal, two days after the football game, the Lewiston and Edward Little boys soccer teams faced off on the same field in a regional semifinal.


When the shooting started on Oct. 25, the Lewiston soccer team had just earned a 1-0 overtime win over Mt. Blue in the Class A North quarterfinals.

The Blue Devils dedicated their playoff run to their city.

“Our city cried a lot. And we also cried a lot,” senior defender Obed Antonio said in a video posted on the Men in Blazers social media accounts. “So we’re just like, ‘Our next tears going to be tears of happiness.’”

The Red Eddies, meanwhile, were in the middle of their quarterfinal against Mt. Ararat when the game was suspended after news of the shooting spread to Topsham. Edward Little won a replay of the quarterfinal to earn a spot in the semifinal.

The Blue Devils beat the Red Eddies 2-1 in a well-played and hard-fought matchup that was a display of some of the best characteristics of Lewiston and Auburn.

Lewiston edged Camden Hills 1-0 in the regional final, then headed to Messalonskee High School in Oakland seeking their program’s fourth state championship in a matchup with Deering.


The Lewiston boys soccer program had already been immortalized in a book and a documentary about their first state championship season in 2015. Now the Blue Devils had a chance to add another poignant chapter to their history.

Tegra Mbele and Mohamed Gabow each scored for Lewiston in regulation, but Deering answered both times and the contest went to overtime.

With about a minute left in the extra period, Mbele received a long pass from Gabow and kicked the ball over the charging goalie and into the net to give Lewiston the Class A state title with a 3-2 overtime victory.

Caden Boone, center, celebrates with teammates and fans after Lewiston beat Deering 3-2 in overtime to capture the Class A boys soccer state championship on Nov. 11 in Oakland. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“We have been saying the past few weeks, ‘Do it for the city,’” Lewiston goalie Payson Goyette said after the game. “It feels great to win for the city and bring some good to the city.”

Some of the pain from the Lewiston shootings may never heal, but sports stepped up and helped begin the process for many in the Twin Cities, and in the state, in the weeks after Oct. 25.

While the boys soccer team was in Oakland winning the state title, a day-long softball tournament was being held in Lewiston and Auburn to raise funds for the shooting victims. Among the players were Patrick Dempsey, who had recently been named the Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine, and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee.


The softball tournament was initially a small idea that continued to grow as support rolled in.

“Pandemonium is the best way to describe this,” said Derek Haskell, the initial catalyst for the softball tournament, “but in the best way. It’s great seeing everybody out here supporting this.”

The New England Patriots invited the Lewiston boys soccer team to their Dec. 3 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The players’ day included a private meeting with Kraft and the opportunity to ring the bell atop the Gillette Stadium lighthouse before the game.

Though not directly related to the shootings, the same day the soccer team was at the Patriots game, four Lewiston girls hockey players and two coaches attended the Boston Bruins game as part of the Bruins’ Hockey is for Everyone night at TD Garden. The Bruins also were honoring the first responders of the Oct. 25 shooting that night.

Blue Devils captain Fiona Landry skated onto the ice in her Lewiston uniform during a pregame ceremony, and after the game the Blue Devils were invited to the locker room area to meet goalie Jeremy Swayman, who played at UMaine, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy.

“Swayman was awesome; he stayed in the room for quite a while,” Lewiston coach Scott Laberge said. “He talked to (assistant coach) Scott (Cloutier) and I specifically about how things were going up here, with everything going on. You could tell it’s in his mind.”

In addition, Lewiston senior basketball player Natalie Beaudoin is selling shirts to raise money for victims. The Boston Celtics have honored heroes of Oct. 25, including Auburn’s Tom Gilberti, Greene’s Meghan Hutchinson, Lewiston’s Kenny Moore, and one of the victims, Joe Walker of Lewiston. The Maine Celtics held a Lewiston Strong night Dec. 16, which included the G League team wearing special Lewiston-themed uniforms.

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