DOVER-FOXCROFT — Jack Bernatchez is a throwback. In an era of wide-open, sling the ball all over the place and use the entire football field, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Bernatchez usually just needs the space between the tackles.

“I’m a downhill runner, but if I get out in the open, I have some breakaway speed,” Bernatchez, a recent Messalonskee High School graduate, said. “I like running into people, but when I can get into open space, that’s fun too.”

This week, Bernatchez was at Foxcroft Academy training with his teammates on the East squad for the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. The annual all-star football game raises money for the Shriner’s hospitals for children. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.

As he was at Messalonskee, Bernatchez is expected to be a bruising fullback for the East. The East will alternate between the Wing-T and spread formations to take advantage of the depth at skill positions. Bernatchez is one of a handful of talented running backs on the team, which includes Brunswick’s Will Bessey, Bangor’s Dan Johnson, and Portland’s Joe Esposito, the winner of the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s top player last season.

Bernatchez’ high school coach, Brad Bishop, is the East’s offensive coordinator, and knows exactly how to use Bernatchez.

“We’re running two different types of offenses, so he’s with me most of the time. He’s playing fullback. We’re trying to mesh everybody, give everybody their own niche, so they can play,” Bishop said. “It’s just tougher for the linemen, because everybody plays in a different system. We’re just trying to get everybody the ball.”


Added Bernatchez: “It’s really cool playing with some kids I’ve competed with in the past. You’ve got Dan Johnson in there, Will Bessey, Joe (Esposito), it’s a cool feeling. What I’m doing is pretty similar to what we did all year in the Wing-T. A little more opened up, but the same old-fashioned Coach Bishop power stuff.”

As a junior, Bernatchez led the Pine Tree Conference Class B in rushing with 1,221 yards. Lasts season, despite missing time with a sprained foot, Bernatchez ran for 1,143 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 9.4 yards per carry.

Before the injury, which came in a midseason game against Brunswick, Bernatchez was having an even better season. He ran for 262 yards in a season-opening 30-14 win over Gardiner, and scored seven touchdowns in a 54-19 win against Hampden.

“With the offense we run, we look for the quickest and toughest kid to play there. How big you are doesn’t matter, but Jack fit the mold. He’s got good speed and he’s strong, and he’s coachable. The coachable part is the biggest thing. He does what he’s asked, and you only have to tell him once,” Bishop said.

Bernatchez ripped off a 73-yard touchdown run in Week 6 at Skowhegan, but aggravated the injury and sat the fourth quarter. He sat Week 7’s game against a strong Brewer team, and played through the injury in the season finale against rival Lawrence. Messalonskee lost all three games, missing the playoffs.

“I was so ready to play Brewer, all the hype around them, just sitting out that game was tough. It gave me a new perspective on the sideline,” Bernatchez said. “We had some close games. It didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, that last Lawrence game, but we fought hard and had a fun year.”


“I feel if he was healthy all year, we probably would have been in the playoffs. But that’s part of the game. He wasn’t a vocal leader, but he was our leader, as far as effort in practice. Without him around, there was kind of a lull. When you have a young team, that’s what happens,” Bishop said.

Bernatchez’ injury gave him a little perspective to play in the Lobster Bowl and raise money to help children who hope to walk, never mind carry the football.

“This game is for those kids. Whatever I can do to help is great,” Bernatchez said.

On Aug. 12, Bernatchez will report to preseason camp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When he applied to MIT, Bernatchez saw the prestigious engineering school as a longshot.

“Once I got in, it wasn’t much of a decision, because you can’t really say no. It was a shock. I wasn’t expecting to get in. But once I did, it was a no brainer,” Bernatchez, who is considering studying mechanical engineering, said.

The Engineers recruited Bernatchez as a running back, but with some shuffling on the coaching staff, that could change. Bishop said that because of Bernatchez’ size and speed, he could be a successful outside linebacker in college. Bernatchez led Messalonskee’s defense with 77 tackles as a safety last season, and is open to playing anywhere MIT coaches decide he fits.


“He should do well in college. I don’t know where he’ll play, what position, but he’ll do fine,” Bishop said.

For now, Bernatchez is enjoying his week playing with the state’s best, and is looking forward to Saturday’s game.

“We’re having fun. He’s a good boy, and it’s a lot of fun,” Bishop said. “We have a good group of kids, and Jack fits right in.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.