OAKLAND — The Messalonskee High School band played the famous “Charge” refrain. Da da da da de da!

On the Messalonksee sideline, Trevor Perry raised his right arm, pumped his fist, and joined the crowd in a hearty cheer.

We met Trevor 10 years ago, shortly after he scored one of the most thrilling and important touchdowns in Waterville Junior High School football history. Trevor, who has Down Syndrome, was the Waterville team manager, but at the end of each practice, the coaches would let him run one play, I Right Toss 31.

When the Panthers played Winslow in their 2002 season finale, Trevor got to suit up and served as a captain for the pre-game coin toss. With the game well in Winslow’s favor in the fourth quarter, the coaches from both sides set in motion a plan they discussed prior to kickoff. Trevor went into the game, and his play, I Right Toss 31, was called.

One long touchdown run later, and Trevor’s love of everything football was hard-wired into his soul.

Trevor has since traded in his Waterville purple for Messalonskee red, white and blue. The back of his Messalonskee football T-shirt reads “Coach Trevor.” During games, Trevor helps make sure the players stay behind the white line, a few yards off the sideline. He helps with water, too, but mainly, Trevor’s job is to keep the team as excited about the game as he is.

“I don’t think he’s ever missed a football game since I was in kingergarten. He’s always been there, right on the sidelines,” said Corey McKenzie, Trevor’s brother and Messalonskee’s leading rusher. “When my dad coached a team down in rec (league), he would always help out there. He’d come right out on the field and help out.”

On Wednesday nights, the Eagles have a team dinner. Each week, Trevor says a few words of inspiration to help prepare the team for the next game.

“I make sure the team is proud to be Eagles. I make sure they know they can win the game,” Trevor said before Friday’s Homecoming game against Skowhegan. “I said ‘This is the Homecoming game’. I said, ‘I want to see you guys play hard.’ “

“He gets everybody fired up. He’s a big supporter of this team. This team definitely wouldn’t be the same without him,” McKenzie said.

Messalonskee head coach Wes Littlefield said Trevor’s speeches usually focus on reminding the team that it’s a family. Maybe it’s because it was Homecoming, or maybe Trevor just felt the Eagles needed a little kick in the butt, but this week, he was more exhuberant than usual, Littlefield said.

“He yelled, ‘Dammit, who’s with me?’ The place errupted,” Littlefield said. “It’s the clearest thing I’ve ever heard him say.”

A half hour before Friday’s kickoff, Trevor elaborated. He pointed at the Eagle statue beyond Veteran Field’s south end zone, and he pointed to the banner that hangs from the press box, the one that reads “Eagle Pride.”

“I said ‘Some players from past teams will come watch, and some who aren’t on the team yet, but want to be on the team will come watch you play. Play hard for them,’ ” Trevor said.

Messalonskee played hard, but by giving up six fumbles, they made it hard on themselves, too. No matter, after the game, Coach Trevor was there to offer congratulations all around. A win is a win. Play hard again next week.

“He doesn’t miss a team dinner, doesn’t miss a game. I’m sure if he could make it to practice, he’d be there, too. It’s definitely nice having him here with us,” McKenzie said.

People say it takes heart to play football. It’s true. As long as Coach Trevor is roaming the Messalonskee sidelines and making sure his Eagles stay pumped up and positive, there’s no doubt which high school football team in Maine has the biggest heart of all.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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