AUGUSTA — B.L. Lippert has one of the greatest nights in Cony High School football history on video. It’s the Rams’ victory over Kennebunk in the 2013 state championship game, and Lippert, an assistant then and Cony’s head coach now, was watching it recently when something far away from the play on the field caught his eye.

The Rams’ ball boy, Sean Cummings, was soaking in the moment, reacting to Cony’s biggest plays as if he was in the middle of them.

“It was pretty funny, watching little No. 14 jumping around on the sidelines,” Lippert said. “He was a freshman, he was in charge of carrying around a cooler with our game balls, trying to keep them warm and out of the conditions that night. He didn’t let go of the cooler, it was his responsibility.”

Today, Cummings can’t get closer to the action. As the Rams’ starting center and a starter at defensive tackle, defensive end or inside linebacker, he never leaves the field. The offense starts with him and the defense hinges on him. It’s a lot of responsibility — particularly when that player is a senior playing his first year full-time at the varsity level after a career at JV.

“It’s a completely different playing field,” Cummings said. “It’s gotten more normal week by week because I’m more used to playing with the guys around me. … It’s still hard at the same time because you still have to play. But it’s gotten easier, just the mental aspect, because you know you can make quick reads and call different things out.”

It’s been a path of equal parts work, patience and resilience for Cummings, who at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds is often smaller than the people he’s asked to block or tackle. His teammates have noticed, electing him one of Cony’s three captains before the season.

The pick took Cummings, soft-spoken and humble, by surprise.

“I didn’t know. There were quite a few seniors that could have been captains,” he said. “All of us worked hard in the offseason to get ready for the season, and those were the guys that were chosen, but everyone on the team is a leader.”

The vote made plenty of sense to Lippert.

“He’s universally respected by everyone in our program. Every coach and every player because he’s in the weight room consistently,” he said. “We elected them once double sessions started. He was pretty close to unanimously elected by his teammates. He’s just a positive person.”

“He’s our hype man,” quarterback Taylor Heath said. “He hypes us up during pre-game. He’s aggressive on defense. He’s in on every tackle, and if you make a mistake, he’s the first guy to get you up and say ‘It’s all right, get the next one.'”

This was not the direction Cummings seemed to be taking in middle school, when he was a quarterback registering at just five feet tall and 105 pounds.

“He hasn’t grown much since,” Lippert joked.

He has, though, gotten bigger. Knowing he’d be a longshot as a quarterback without a growth spurt, Cummings made a home out of the weight room in order to transition to lineman and linebacker. According to Lippert, he benches over 200 pounds and squats 400, allowing him to make up what he lacks in size with strength.

“He really made a commitment to the weight room, just totally transformed his body,” Lippert said. “If you told me his freshman year he’d be starting at center and linebacker for us, I’d have told you you were crazy.”

Making it onto Cony’s veteran-laden roster was a separate challenge in itself. Cummings bided his time on JV while playing varsity only as a special teamer until, with the graduation of 19 seniors this past offseason, he got his chance.

“Sean knew, maybe from the time he walked on campus, that he maybe wouldn’t play until his senior year,” Lippert said. “He could have easily said ‘You know, I’m going to play golf.’ … Instead, he said ‘I’m going to tough it out, play in a million JV games with a chance to play as a senior.’ There are no guarantees, even as a senior, he was going to get to play.”

Play he did, earning starting spots at inside linebacker and center — though the offensive assignment presented the biggest jump. Nothing about playing center is easy. With one hand on the ball, he starts the play at a strength and leverage disadvantage against what is often the defense’s biggest player. He has to know the play inside and out, understand everyone’s assignments, try to read what the defense is going to do and be just as ready to block that brute in front of him on a passing play as run and help push another back when a run is called.

And yet, with all of that heaped on his shoulders to start the year, it was the most straightforward part of the job that had Cummings feeling anxious.

“I think mostly, for me, it was the snaps,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that (quarterback) Taylor (Heath) got the ball and could make plays like he always has. That was my main concern.

“We practiced every day during the week on snaps and everything, the different plays that we run. Just the basics to make sure that, when it comes to game day, we know what we’re doing.”

Cummings acknowledged he was nervous to make a good impression, though being far from the only person in his position helped ease any apprehension.

“It would have been more that way last year because we had so many seniors that had played varsity for so long,” he said. “It was new for a lot of us, so we kind of got thrown into the same boat together.”

A bond with Heath, one of the team’s returning starters, helped.

“It’s been pretty easy,” Heath said about his new center. “Sean and I have been friends since fifth and sixth grade, just about. We hang out every day, we talk, we watch film. It’s been easy, we mesh pretty well together. … When I’m back there, I don’t need to call out too many blitzes because he’s already calling them before I can even see them. It makes my job pretty easy.”

As the season’s gone on, Cummings has settled into a role as a rock for the Rams. He plays high-impact, high-effort positions, and when one job ends, it’s time for the other to begin.

“It’s kind of a mindset,” he said. “You don’t want to let the guys around you down by getting tired or taking breaks. I don’t like coming out of games. I don’t think any one of us does.”

It’s understandable. It’s been a long road onto the field for Cummings. Good luck trying to pull him off.

“For us, he’s just a steadying force on the field,” Lippert said. “Kids look to him as a kid who’s going to be doing the right thing. As a coach, you can’t have enough of those guys.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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