SKOWHEGAN — Roger Jarvais had just turned 13 when he started playing football in the Skowhegan Sports Boosters Club football league. It was 1963, and it was the first year of the league.
“That first year, I bet we had 10 plays,” Jarvais said. “I was quarterback, and on a pass I told guys to either slant in or slant out.”
The Skowhegan Sports Boosters Club football league celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday.
The same league in which Jarvais played in 1963 is where his four sons played youth football. It’s the same league his grandson, Hunter McEwen, plays in now.
“What hits you is the participation. So many kids, now adults, have come back and coach or ref,” Jarvais said.
The league celebrated its half century with a game on Skowhegan Area High School’s Clark Field, and a brief ceremony acknowledging the hard work of all the volunteers who have kept the league strong over the years.
Jarvais watched the fifth and sixth graders play, and noted how much better the equipment they use is than the protection he wore. In one game, Jarvais attempted a tackle that split his helmet up the middle. The hit broke his facemask in two.
“I woke up in the meat wagon on the way to the hospital,” Jarvais said.
The first few seasons, games were played at Memorial Field, where a pair of 80-yard fields were created in the outfield. Fans paid an admission price of 50 cents to watch, and each team had its own cheerleaders. The league grew, and the original players grew up.
In the 1980s, Jarvais’ four sons — Kevin, Chris, Doug McEwen and Kregg — started playing in the league.
“It got much more organized. It became a better football experience,” Jarvais said. “My boys had positive experiences playing youth football.”
Doug and Chris were the same age, playing on different teams. In the regular season, Chris’ Patriots and Doug’s Cowboys tied, so there was a playoff game. McEwen, who now coaches his son, Hunter, doesn’t remember the exact score. It was either 7-0 or 7-6, but he knows his team won.
“There was a little bit of bragging rights,” said McEwen, who went on to be a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy as a Skowhegan Area High School senior in 1990.
McEwen became involved with the league when his son was old enough to play, and he likes what he sees.
“It’s strong. You’ve got some good coaches. The kids are getting a good experience,” McEwen said. “Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.”
When it came time to recognize the participants in the Skowhegan Sports Boosters Club football league over the years, it was done by decade. First, the current players took the field, followed by the group that played from 2000 to 2009, which included many current Skowhegan high players.
Then the ‘90s, and ‘80s, and ‘70s, until finally, Jarvais and a handful of players from the ‘60s jogged onto the field. Each group was met with strong, steady applause.
It’s things like this league that turn a town into a community. The generations posed together at midfield, and the community applauded some more.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242