FARMINGTON — Nate Backus has the speed, and Cam Abbott has the hands. Or maybe it’s the other way around. All Mt. Blue High School football head coach Gary Parlin knows is he has two great wide receivers finally on the field together.
“I said all along, man would I love to have them both out there at the same time. Last Friday night was the first time,” Parlin said during Wednesday’s practice. “A lot of times, if you want to rotate your defense one way towards a certain player, you can’t do that with those two guys. Both are good screen guys. Both have good hands and speed.”
Last Friday was the season opener, and Mt. Blue fans were treated to a wide receiver show they thought they’d see during last season’s run to the Class B state championship. Backus caught five passes for 116 and two touchdowns. Abbott had five catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
“Cam’s got the hands, and I’d like to think I’ve got the wheels,” Backus said.
Added Abbott: “I’m more of the possession receiver, and he’s more of the speed guy.”
Backus and Abbott will be keys for the Cougars when they host Lawrence on Friday night.
Both seniors, Abbott and Backus each missed time last season with an injury. Backus had offseason surgery to repair fingers on both hands that chronically dislocated and did not play his first game until the Cougars played at Leavitt in Week 6. That game was Abbott’s last of the 2012 season. After the game, Abbott learned he’d played for weeks with a torn ACL in his right knee.
“I guess when you win a championship, you’ve got to have some luck, and that was luck in that one of the best players in our conference (Abbott) goes down, and we can replace him with someone that nobody knew about,” Parlin said.
Backus was such an unknown in the second half of last season, that Gardiner, a team that played the Cougars in the regular season prior to Backus’ return, wasn’t ready for his speed when the teams met in the playoffs.
“At that time, we thought he was done for the year. Then the doctor gave him permission to come back,” Parlin said.
Backus caught touchdown passes of 33 and 31 yards, the second coming late in the fourth quarter of the Cougars’ 33-21 regional semifinal win. Backus finished the game with four catches for 118 yards.
Parlin said after the game, Gardiner coach Matt Burgess asked, “Where did No. 21 (Backus) come from?”
“It kind of worked out well. When Cam was injured I was back, but we knew we both wanted to be out there together. It’s nice for this year,” Backus said.
Abbott played on what he thought was a sore knee for a month, even catching two passes for 50 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown catch on the game’s third play, against Leavitt in his final game of the season.
“I found out in Week 7, and it actually happened in Week 2 against Madison. So I played on it. It was devastating. I obviously wanted to be a part of that championship run,” Abbott said.
Physically, Abbott and Backus are nothing alike. Abbott is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Backus is 5-9, 150. But both have a knack for getting open. Abbott played running back growing up, and did not go out for football his sophomore year. When he returned last season, Parlin and the coaching staff didn’t need another running back. A big receiver, on the other hand, would fit right in.
“Cam could be a quarterback for a lot of teams. He’s just an athlete. If there were a tiddlywinks game here, he’d win,” Parlin said.
Backus showed off his speed on the second play of Friday’s 49-20 win over Hampden Academy. Backus ran a fade route down the right sideline, and quarterback Andrew Pratt hit him in stride for a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Later in the game, Abbott had touchdown receptions of 40 and 63 yards, and Backus added a 37-yard touchdown catch on a slant route in which he simply split two defenders and outran them.
“We know what we’ve got on each side of the ball, and we know we can each catch what Andy throws at us. We like to set each other up,” Backus said.
Added Parlin: “Cam is a better blocker. We always talk about following your blockers. We just let Nate go on instinct when he runs, because he has great instincts. Cam is better at following his blocks.”
There’s no rivalry between the senior wideouts, Parlin said. Rather, Abbott and Backus realize as long as the Cougars are playing well, they’ll be plenty of scoring chances to go around.
“Some kids could score 20 touchdowns in this league. Cam Abbott could be a big touchdown scorer,” Parlin said. “He’s going to score touchdowns, but he’s not going to score as many because other guys get their touches. They’ve all bought into that.
“All our seniors like each other and pull for each other. Especially those two.”
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242