What the Mt. Blue-Leavitt football rivalry lacks in history, it makes up for in intensity.

Friday’s night’s game at Libby Field in Turner was just the third game between the schools, but it was the third game between the Cougars and the Hornets decided by a touchdown or less. The Mt. Blue-Leavitt book is short, but it’s a page turner.

“They’re well-coached and their kids play hard. I don’t know how two teams mirror each other any more than we do,” Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin said, minutes after his team beat Leavitt, 20-12 Friday night. With the win, Mt. Blue took sole possession of first place in the Pine Tree Conference Class B division.

Unfortunately, it also looks like it’s nearing an end.

If the proposal to expand Maine high school football to four classes passes in the spring, Mt. Blue and Leavitt will be in different divisions again. Mt. Blue will stay in Class B, but Leavitt, with an enrollment below 600 students, will play in Class C.

This is a rivalry of competition, not a rivalry of geography or history. This is just Mt. Blue’s second year in the conference, but the Cougars came into the league as Leavitt’s chief competition for the crown.

“It’s not a rivalry where we hate each other or anything like that. It’s a rivalry where, it’s two good football teams,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “When we play, they’re going to be close games. They’re going to be emotional games that everybody wants to win, and when you lose, it’s going to hurt. That’s what makes it a good rivalry, I think.”

There’s an obvious respect between these teams. They hit each other hard, and they help each other up. In the handshake line after the game, the Hornets offered the Cougars congratulations, and the promise of their best should they meet again.

“It’s huge respect. Right after the game, right after we won, all those guys are coming up, ‘Great game. We’ll see you in the Eastern Maine game,’ ” Mt. Blue senior Zak Kendall said. “We have the utmost respect for Leavitt, and they have just as much respect for us, I believe. It’s fun football.”

Leavitt won the first regular season game against Mt. Blue 22-17. Then, in the conference championship game last November, Jordan Hersom completed a shovel pass to Jake Ouellette for a 2-point conversion in the second overtime, giving the Hornets a 22-21 win and a third consecutive conference title.

That play took just seconds, but to the Cougars, it took 330 days. That was how long they had until they could play Leavitt again. They stewed on it a while, and when this season’s schedule came out, they looked to see when they would make the trip to Turner for the rematch.

Throughout Friday’s game, the Cougars reminded each other of last November’s outcome. One point stopped being an epitaph on last season and became a rallying cry.

“It was all year, that one point,” Kendall said.

The true test of a rival is, does the opponent make you step up your game? Ask Parlin if his Cougars had a little extra focus and edge in the week leading up to the Leavitt game. He saw it at Thursday’s practice.

“They never piss and moan at each other, but they did it over and over. I thought, ‘This is a good thing. They’re ready to play,'” Parlin said.

The win not only gave the Cougars some piece of mind, it snapped Leavitt’s 38-game win streak against league opponents. That’s what rivals do. When they beat you, they do it in the biggest way possible.

Leavitt’s “one point” could be “two,” as in the number of fumbles the Hornets lost inside the Mt. Blue red zone on Friday night. Close games are won and lost in the little details, and now, Leavitt can only hope it meets Mt. Blue in the conference playoffs next month.

“We were talking before the game, the coaches. You know, it’s just nice to have a week where you prepare and you know it’s going to be a good game. You know the players and coaches on both sides are the highest quality,” Hathaway said. “I’m sad that we lost, but I’m happy we got the opportunity to play in a game like this. It’s going to help us down the road.”

Hathaway hopes that road leads to Kemp Field in Farmington, in the conference championship game, for one last go-round before the teams play in separate leagues in 2013. The Cougars would welcome that, too.

“Hopefully, if they take care of business, we’re going to be playing these guys one more time,” Parlin said.

Circumstances give the Mt. Blue-Leavitt rivalry a shelf life. In no way does that mean it’s gone sour.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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