HOUSTON — The chants were long and loud: “We want one more. We want one more.”

Over and over, thousands of New England Patriots fans chanted during a rally for the team in downtown Houston on Saturday afternoon. It was a giddy hour building up even more excitement for Super Bowl LI, to be played at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at NRG Stadium between the Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

Patriots fans have descended on this city the last two days and outnumber Falcons fans at least 5-to-1. And there were plenty of Mainers in the middle, cheering at the rally in hopes the Patriots win a fifth NFL championship.

“If they win,” said Ashton Depasquale of York, “it will be a dream come true.”

If they don’t? “It will be upsetting,” he said.

Depasquale should know. He attended Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis and saw the Patriots lose to the New York Giants, 21-17. He’s hoping his friend, Shane Spink of Eliot, gets to see a victory in his first Super Bowl.

They work together at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and had said if the Patriots got to the Super Bowl, they were going to be there. They bought their hotel rooms during the AFC championship game. Last week, they got their tickets online.

“We saved our money for this,” said Spink. “It means a lot to be here. It’s a great time to come down here and see one for myself.”

Country singer Scotty McCreery, wearing a throwback Tom Brady jersey, sang some songs and gave the Mainers a boost when he proclaimed he was a lifelong Patriots fan because “my dad grew up in Eliot, Maine.”

‘CHECKING THIS OFF THE BUCKET LIST’

Cindy Smith of Gardiner was there with her husband, Vaughn, and friends Todd and Kim Johnson. Smith’s brother, Tim Greenleaf, now lives in Hawaii, but for his sister’s 50th birthday, he promised her if the Patriots made the Super Bowl, they would be there.

Somehow he came through with six tickets, and joined the four others at the rally, showing his sister the tickets that he procured. Saturday’s rally was just the beginning of a whirlwind day for them. This is their first Super Bowl and they wanted a complete experience.

“This is a dream come true,” said Cindy Smith. “We want to see Tom Brady finish this, all the Patriots finish this. We want to see the highlight of the season.”

They cheered as the Patriots cheerleaders danced. They cheered as owner Robert Kraft, his son Jonathan and injured tight end Rob Gronkowski took the stage to implore even more cheers.

“This is something,” said Greenleaf. “It’s pretty major.”

Not all Mainers who’ll attend the game made it to the rally. A certain Major League baseball player and Portland native by the name of Ryan Flaherty spent much of Saturday morning at the NFL Experience, trying out his skills at the football exhibits.

A lifelong Patriots fan, he didn’t want to miss this one, so his agent secured him a couple of tickets. Flaherty brought along childhood friend and former Deering High teammate Ryan Piacentini.

“I don’t know how many more the Patriots will get to,” said Flaherty. “So I’m very excited to be going.”

So is Piacentini, who remains close to Flaherty, often visiting him in Baltimore. “I grew up a Pats fan and it’s not every day you get the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. We’ve talked about this a lot and this year we said, if the Patriots make it, we have to go … I’m checking this off the bucket list.”

Christopher Marshall

Christopher Marshall and his dad, Clint, of Biddeford Pool, said the same thing. The younger Marshall, who graduated from Biddeford High in 2009, flew in early Friday morning from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he lives and works. His dad, a financial consultant for companies such as Fore River Co. in Portland, came in later Friday.

“This is all about the Patriots and my son,” said Clint Marshall. “It’s a good shared experience, and about making memories.”

“This is a dream come true, to come to the Super Bowl, especially with Brady and Bill Belichick,” said Christopher Marshall. “We’re just so excited.”

A TASTE OF MAINE IN TEXAS

Of course, some Patriots fans already live here. Like Buddy Charity. a Biddeford native and 1985 graduate of Biddeford High.

Some Patriots fans, like Biddeford native Buddy Charity and his family, already live in Texas. Charity operates Maine-ly Sandwiches, left, which brought its food truck to the weeklong celebration in downtown Houston. Staff photo by Mike Lowe

He left Maine after graduation to join the military. Life then took him to Louisiana, where he met his wife, and eventually Texas. He was a teacher, but always liked the food industry. He worked at Lisa’s Pizza in Old Orchard Beach for many years.

And he felt there was a need to introduce Texans to Maine cuisine. “And,” he added, “I was sick and tired of missing Maine food.”

So he opened Maine-ly Sandwiches in November 2012 in Houston, added another location nine months later and eventually started a food truck. What’s unique about it is that other than serving Maine lobster rolls and whoopie pies – which his daughter, Holli, makes – he produces Italian sandwiches based on those from some of his favorite Maine haunts, including George’s in Biddeford. He also serves whole-bellied fried clams, Moxie and several Maine-brewed beers.

“I’m not as homesick anymore,” he said. “It’s like every other day someone from Maine comes into my shops.”

Holli has noticed an increase in Maine fans to the food truck the last couple of nights in downtown Houston. Lots of New Englanders, she said, looking for a taste of home.

Like her dad, she is a Patriots fan, which is curious because she was born in New Jersey and lives in Texas. But, she said, “It’s who I root for. That’s my team. I’m glad to see them in the Super Bowl.”

And she added, “I claim Maine more than anywhere else. I feel more at home up there.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH