FARMINGTON — Amid the ongoing celebration surrounding Mt. Blue High School’s first football state championship in 32 years, there was a little disappointment. Senior quarterback Jordan Whitney, one of the top players in the state using any criteria, was not selected as one of the 12 semifinalists for the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy.
Mt. Blue head coach Gary Parlin, while upset with the snub, shrugged and pointed to the trophy on the shelf in his office, where it will sit until the construction at Mt. Blue High School is complete and the school once again has a trophy case. Whitney did the same.
“I’m disappointed,” Whitney said, looking at the Gold Ball the Cougars earned with their 44-42 win over Marshwood in the state championship game. “That’s the more important trophy, anyway.”
Since Dustin Ireland in the mid-1990s, Mt. Blue has churned out a steady stream of strong quarterbacks, and Whitney might be the best of them all. This season, Whitney threw for 1,755 yards and ran for another 658. He threw 29 touchdown passes with just six interceptions. He completed 69 percent (102 for 148) of his passes, and ran for five touchdown.
Defensively, Whitney had three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He punted for the Cougars, and returned a punt for a score.
For his part in Mt. Blue’s run to its first state title since 1980, Jordan Whitney is the Morning Sentinel Football Player of the Year. Lawrence safety/quarterback Spencer Carey and Winslow tackle/linebacker Brock Deschaine were also considered.
The 2012 season capped an incredible career for Whitney. He leaves Mt. Blue with 4,924 passing yards, 65 touchdown passes and just 16 interceptions in his three years as the Cougars’ starter. Whitney had 142 career carries for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a safety, Whitney had nine interceptions and two defensive touchdowns in his career.
Whitney was at his best in the Cougars’ biggest games. All his skills, his arm, his speed, and his savvy, were on full display when Mt. Blue needed them the most.
With just over six minutes to play in the state championship game, Mt. Blue faced a fourth-and-4 from the Marshwood 20-yard line. Ahead 38-35, the Cougars needed to score. Whitney expected Parlin to call a toss play, like he did earlier in the game when the Cougars needed to pick up 4 yards on fourth down.
Instead, Parlin put the game in the hands of his quarterback.
The play called for Whitney to fake a handoff to the dive back, Calan Lucas, then fake another handoff to Nate Backus on the sweep. Throughout the game, tight end Zak Kendall would come to the sideline and let the coaches know he was uncovered. That’s what Whitney was counting on.
“It was two fakes on the play. I faked one, and I slipped back, because I saw one of their (line)backers was stunting, so I looked back at Zak, not really looking at Nate (Backus) for the other fake. It was an awful fake. I just turned my body to get my shoulders as squared as I could, and Zak was wide open,” Whitney said. “They weren’t even covering Zak. I knew he was going to be open.”
The 20-yard touchdown pass pushed Mt. Blue’s lead to 44-35, and the Cougars went on to win the game by two points.
Against Gardiner in the Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinals, the Cougars had a fourth-and -22 play late in the game. Mt. Blue held a 27-21 lead, but Gardiner had scored two consecutive touchdowns as was gaining momentum.
Again, Parlin trusted Whitney to connect on a play that had never worked anywhere but practice.
The play was a fade pass to Backus in the right corner of the end zone. It went as a 31-yard touchdown pass, but accounting for the yards in the end zone and Whitney dropping back to throw, Whitney threw a perfect pass approximately 50 yards.
The touchdown pushed Mt. Blue’s lead to 33-21 with four minutes, 50 seconds left in the game, and drove a spike through Gardiner’s rally.
“That play was my favorite play of the season, the touchdown to Nate Backus in the back of the end zone. The whole joke was, we’d tried to run that play for two years. We had a great receiver in Izaiha Tracy, but we couldn’t complete it. That’s the first time we completed it,” Parlin said.
We live in a time when players can break down game film on their smart phone, or read their playbook on an iPad, but one of the most important plays of Mt. Blue’s season was created the old-fashioned way. Parlin drew it up in the dirt, at halftime.
It was Oct. 5 at Leavitt. The Cougars held a 20-12 lead late in the fourth quarter, and the winner of the game would be alone in first place in the PTC B. The Hornets called their second timeout with 1:32 remaining, just before Mt. Blue had a third-and-7 play at the Leavitt 42.
It was time for the play Parlin drew up with Whitney and running back Calan Lucas at halftime, a fake handoff to Lucas up the middle, Whitney tucks the ball and runs a sweep to the right.
“We didn’t have that in the play book,” Whitney said.
They do now. The play went for 15 yards and a first down. The Cougars were able to run out the clock, and earn their most important win of the regular season.
“At halftime, we’re over there, down on the baseball outfield, ‘OK Calan, you’re going to fake it, and you’re just going to dive right into the two hole,’ ” Parlin said. “Nobody else knew it was coming except for those two guys. You know it’s your year, when you draw one up in the sand and it works. Maybe the football gods are going to be good to us this year.”
As the season wore on, Whitney ran more and more. More than half of his rushing yards, 377 of 658, came in the playoffs, as did three of his five rushing touchdowns. Whitney’s favorite play was a quarterback sweep, in which a pride of Cougars forms a wall of blockers, and he gets to the corner and does his thing.
“I have so many people in front of me. I can follow them, and once I get past them, I can make a few moves and get a few more yards,” Whitney said.
In the state game against Marshwood, the play went for a 40-yard gain. Whitney ran for 136 yards against Gardiner in the conference semifinals, and many of those yards came on this play, Parlin said.
The play that best defines Whitney’s development into one of the top quarterbacks in the state is actually a 14-yard loss, Parlin said.
It was one play before Whitney’s touchdown pass to Backus in the fourth quarter. It was second down and 9, and expecting Gardiner linebacker Steve Sirois to rush from the left, Parlin called a screen pass to Jackson.
This time, however, Sirois didn’t come. He picked up coverage on Jackson.
“All year, Sirois rushed us from end, both times we played them. We’ve got a screen to the left set up for Bradley Jackson,” Parlin said. “(Whitney) looks to the right to Chad Luker for the fake, looks back.”
With no receiver open, Whitney took the sack from Brad Weston. It set up fourth and long, but the Cougars still had the ball, and a quarterback who could make a play.
“Sirois was right on Bradley. There was no way I could throw there. It’s a pick,” Whitney said. “I just developed so much from sophomore year. I threw 12 interceptions my sophomore year.”
Whitney played with an instinct for the game, too. On his 60-yard punt return for a score against Madison in Week 2, Whitney carved his own path rather than following the wall set up by blockers.
“I was supposed to go to the wall that we always set up, but I guess I didn’t really see it there, so I made a couple cuts and I was gone,” Whitney said.
Whitney’s season was the culmination of years of hard work, Parlin said.
Whitney plans on playing college football. Among the schools he is considering are the University of Maine, Husson and Norwich.
“I’m keeping my options open,” Whitney said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242