SKOWHEGAN — Ten minutes ago, Matthew Friedman explained the bench press competition. Simply press 135 pounds as many times as you can. The record was set last year by Oak Hill’s Luke Washburn, who did 46 reps, Friedman said.

Now, Hunter Collins, a senior at Waterville, quietly celebrates breaking the record. With 47 reps in the bench press competition, Collins is unofficially the strongest man in the Skowhegan Indians Big Man Battle For Brotherhood.

“Actually, I was aiming for 50, but 47 is nice,” Collins, a defensive tackle with the Purple Panthers, said.

On Saturday at Clark Field, Skowhegan hosted the fifth Big Man Battle, a chance for high school linemen to show off the skills that during a game a taken for granted by casual fans. You see the running back sprinting down the field? Well, somebody had to make the hole.

Linemen usually get noticed when a teammate gets flattened in the backfield, or they get run over. The Big Man Battle was a chance for them to show off their skills.

“Even though they’re the big guys, we’re seeing some great athletes,” Friedman, the head football coach at Skowhegan Area High School, said.

Friedman started the Big Man Battle five years ago, when he was head coach at Madison Area Memorial High School.

“I wanted to do something to build up that camaraderie with the line,” Friedman said. “What better way to do it than have them compete as a team?”

They also compete for a cause. This year, the Big Man Battle raised money for the Reynolds family. Peter Reynolds and Cherrie DeMelle were killed in a car accident in January. Zachary Reynolds, Peter’s son and a football player at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, survived. His older brother Isaiah, graduated from Bonny Eagle and is trying to support his siblings.

Friedman estimated the event raised $2,500 for the Reynolds family. Bonny Eagle was one of the teams competing.

There were 10 events, six individual and four team. Tires were flipped and thrown. Sleds were pushed and pulled. Agility was tested. Friedman looked over his shoulder at a player bear crawling his way through a stage of the obstacle course.

“Most players hate that event. Coaches love to see them do it, but they really don’t love it. I know bench press is a big crowd pleaser. They all love the tire flip. This year we added the tire throw, and just from speaking to a lot of the players, they seem to like that event, too,” Friedman said.

“We all know we work very hard all year,” Collins said. “I think linemen have a brotherhood, anyway, being in the trenches.”

There have been 7 on 7 passing leagues in the offseason for a few years. The Big Man Battle gives linemen a competitive offseason outlet, too.

“It’s something nice for the linemen to do,” Skowhegan junior tight end Sam Baker said. “The skill guys have the 7 on 7. I was a quarterback. I know what both sides are like.”

Baker excelled at the Farmer’s Walk, an event that sounds more pastoral than it actually is. Competitors had to carry a sled and weights, approximately 135 pounds, 20 yards out and back. A time of 12 or 13 seconds was good. Baker did it in 11.42 seconds.

When a 280-pound tire hits the ground after being flipped, it sounds like a tyrannosaurus rex taking a baby step. Not that you could hear the rhythmic THUMP of the tire over each competitors teammates cheering him on. Eight schools sent a team to compete in the Big Man Battle, and some entered two teams.

“My ideal scenario would be to have 20 schools represented and up to 30 teams,” Friedman said. “That way, whatever we’re fundraising for, we can really maximize that. The more teams the better.”

A tire flipped in June is a hole opened in October.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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