If you looked past the north end zone, you saw the signs. They hung on the fence surrounding the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf, and there were four of them. One from each of the elementary schools in MSAD 49. Fairfield, Albion, Benton and Clinton. One from each of the towns that sends students to Lawrence High School.

Lawrence lost the Class A state football championship game Saturday to Cheverus High School of Portland, 49-7, but the Bulldogs arrived at Fitzpatrick Stadium knowing they have a lot of young fans. There’s no doubt the loss stings, they all do, but the Bulldogs can take some solace knowing they still have a ton of young fans.

“We have great community support. I know it’s been said before, we really feel we appreciate it,” Lawrence head coach John Hersom said. “It was great to have the communities come together and support our program like they do.”

On Thursday night, Lauren Conohan, a fifth-grade teacher at Clinton Elementary, arrived at the Bulldogs’ team dinner and dropped off letters from her 20 students to the Lawrence football team.

“A lot of them are PAL football players or cheerleaders,” Conohan said. “They totally look up to the high school kids.”

Conohan tied the letters into her writing curriculum, and each student wrote three or four notes.

“A couple kids wrote that they hope they someday can be on the Lawrence football team and will work real hard,” Conohan said. “They said they’re very proud of the Lawrence Bulldogs.”

One kid, in a letter to Hersom, wrote the name of his PAL team and his number. Do you know who I am? the young player asked.

“The (players) got a lot of personal letters from the grade school kids. Just wishing us luck, congratulating us on our Eastern Maine championship. Wishing us luck for today,” Hersom said after the game.

Benton Elementary held a pep rally for Hersom, who teaches physical education at the school. Fairfield Primary School students made a banner that read “We Love Coach Hersom.” Friday was Blue and Gray Day throughout the school district.

When you go to a game at Lawrence’s Keyes Field, you’ll see all the children playing impromptu games of two-hand touch football on the field behind the visitor’s stands. A lot of the Lawrence players did the exact same thing before it was their turn to wear the Lawrence colors.

A number of Lawrence players help out with the PAL football program. They’re role models, and they know it.

“They’ve all been in those shoes before as young kids. They know we have a real strong tradition in our communities for football,” Hersom said. “They feel it when they’re out competing for the varsity team.”

In seven seasons at Lawrence, Hersom’s record is 65-9. His embrace of the youth football program and encouraging his players to relish being role models is no small part of the Bulldogs’ success.

“I know our guys, players and coaches, we all feel that kind of love that we get this time of year in our season. It’s just a wonderful thing to feel that support,” Hersom said. “We have a lot of things to be proud of, and we hope to be back here soon.”

There’s no doubt about that. A generation sets the example, and the next follows.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]


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