FAIRFIELD — The most remarkable interception of the season in the Pine Tree Conference was the result of something that happened rarely. Spencer Carey was beaten by a receiver.
“He might have gotten a step out of position, but he was able to get back there and make that grab,” Lawrence head coach John Hersom said. “That’s pretty impressive athletic ability.”
It was in the first minute of the fourth quarter of the conference semifinal game between Carey’s Lawrence High School and Messalonskee. Trailing 27-0, Messalonskee was desparate for points, so the Eagles went to a trick play they’d tried unsuccesfully in the first half, the halfback pass.
Messalonskee’s Corey McKenzie had a step on Carey, and when Jake Dexter let the pass go, it looked like it had a chance to go for a big gain.
As McKenzie readied himself for the catch, Carey, who closed whatever distance McKenze had gained, stuck his left hand in the air, and..
“Actually, I got beat and was trying to recover from it. I just threw the hand up there and made a lucky play, I guess,” Carey said.
Carey’s one-handed pick essentially ended any chance the Eagles had of making a late run. Carey followed that with two interceptions against Cony in the conference championship game.
No matter what happens when Lawrence (11-0) plays Thornton Academy (10-1) on Saturday in the Class A state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, one of the great careers in the history of Lawrence football will come to an end.
“He’s been a heck of a workhorse for us throughout his career. Even as a young sophomore, we put a lot on him,” Hersom said of Carey. “He’s really developed, we feel, into one of the top players in the state.”
A three-year starter on offense and defense for Lawrence, Carey has seen his role expand as he’s matured. As a safety, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Carey is responsible to run support, pass defense, and the occasional blitz.
“The last couple of years, I’ve been trying to read my keys faster, so I can come up to the line and make plays,” Carey said.
Carey finished the regular season with one interception, and added three more in the PTC A playoffs. Opponents simply looked for his No. 9, then threw the ball in the other direction.
“He’s as good a secondary player as I’ve seen in some time,” Cony head coach Robby Vachon said.
Both of Carey’s interceptions in the PTC A championship game set up Bulldogs touchdowns. The first, Carey picked off at the Cony 30-yard line and returned to the 2. Two plays later, Josh Doolan scored.
Carey’s second pick cam deep in Lawrence territory. A few plays later, Doolan went 47 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 10-point cushion.
“After the second interception, we told Ben (Lucas, Cony’s quarterback) ‘Don’t go near 9. He’s dangerous,’ ” Vachon said. “(Carey) was the biggest factor in the game in the third quarter.”
Added Hersom: “He certainly a guy opponents have to recognize and base some of their game plan according to what he’s been doing for us. We’re moving him around quite a bit. He’s often coming up either in press coverage or he’s even coming inside to bring pressure. We gain that advantage, where he’s an athletic kid that plays like a linebacker. He can really be there for run support.”
Carey has been Lawrence’s quarterback since the start of his sophomore year, save a short stretch at the end of the 2011 season when a shoulder injury moved him to split end. Lawrence has been a run-heavy offense this season, and throwing has created some statistical anomalies for the Bulldogs.
On the surface, Carey’s completion percentage of 34 percent (18 for 53) suggests Lawrence hasn’t had success throwing the ball. But that’s not the case. Carey has 555 yards passing and seven touchdowns. His average completion goes for nearly 31 yards.
With a strong group of running backs, Carey and the Bulldogs have turned the passing game into a big play knockout punch. When Carey rolls out on a waggle or bootleg play, defenses must make a quick decision, come up to stop him from taking off, or let him throw. Either choice has its consequences.
“We’ve tried to develop him into a throwing threat as well as a running threat. We just felt like our run game was going to be something that would be a strength of our offense this year,” Hersom said. “He does those things well. He’s made some nice decisions in some important games and important situations, where he’s thrown the ball accurately.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. the last several weeks. Just focus on field position and move the chains, and our defense will kind of secure the field position that we’re looking for.”
Lawrence’s approach worked. The Bulldogs led the PTC A in scoring this season, averaging close to 38 points per game.
“I just work on (throwing) every day. I know it’s not the first thing we go to, but as long as we improve and make sure we have it there in our back pocket in case we need it. Our line does a great job when called upon,” Carey said. “I’m just working on my footwork, just trying to get my right steps. It all starts with the feet.”
Football is in Carey’s future. He’s considering the University of Maine and Holy Cross, and Carey said he’s open to playing any position.
“I just want to get out there and play,” Carey said.
That’s a decision that can wait. For now, Carey is preparing for his final game in a Lawrence uniform.
“It’s just special. I’ve always said there’s no better place to play in the state than Fairfield,” Carey said. “I think a lot of people can tell that when they come to the games. It’s just a different atmosphere. I love it here.”
Travis Lazarczyk – 861-9242