OAKLAND — Classroom doors throughout Messalonskee High School are decorated with newspaper clippings, stories written about the Eagles girls and boys basketball teams. Teachers who are former Messalonskee students have pulled old jerseys out of storage. A pep rally is planned for Friday afternoon.

“Facebook’s gone wild the last couple of days. All these Messalonskee graduates, wishing luck to the teams,” Colby Charette, a junior, said.

On Saturday, both the Messalonskee girls and boys basketball teams will play for the Class A state championship at the Augusta Civic Center. The girls will take on Brunswick at 1:05 p.m., with the boys facing Greely of Cumberland immediately following. Messalonskee is the first school since Westbrook in 1996 to send both girls and boys teams to the Class A championship game in the same year. No school has won both gold balls in the same season since Lawrence in 1994.

“You can ask people if they’re going to the games. Someone who’s never gone to a game before, and they’re saying yes,” said junior Conor Ferguson, who along with Charette and senior Tanner Burton is a ringleader of the Eagles Nest, Messalonskee’s student fan section.

When you include the athletes Messalonskee is sending to the New England high school indoor track and field championships on Saturday, excitement around Eagles athletics is high.

“That’s adding to the fuel to how hyped up we’re getting. Now that we have all these winning teams, it’s pretty exhilarating,” senior Jared Handley, who plays drums in the school’s pep band, said.

The pep band and the Eagles Nest worked in tandem throughout the Class A North tournament to make Messalonskee games some of the loudest at the Augusta Civic Center. For last Friday’s regional finals, Messalonskee students were decked out in blue. For the semifinals on Wednesday, the Eagles Nest wore black. Fans can check the Eagles Nest Facebook group to double check on an upcoming game’s dress code.

“As long as we’re all wearing the same color, that’s what it’s about,” Charette said.

While many schools show up at the tournament with a full band, Messalonskee’s pep band is a rock quartet, with Handley on drums, Heather Doucette on bass, and Will McPherson and Ian Cates on guitar. Throughout the tournament, Cates became a crowd favorite with his version of Van Halen’s classic instrumental, “Eruption,” as well as his antics to fire up the crowd.

“When Ian Cates puts the guitar behind his head and starts playing a solo and just wails on his guitar, the whole Nest, we’re up,” Charette said.

Added Burton: “To see Jared just start busting out a drum solo, man! The other teams are bringing whole bands, and we’ve got four or five kids.”

Handley said his favorite of the band’s many covers is “Sweet Child O Mine,” by Guns n’ Roses.

“It’s the one we probably know the best and the one I can say is probably the most impressive when we play so far,” Handley said. “Having the Eagles Nest behind us, it brings us down to earth. The other people are still there, but we’re kind of doing it for the team. I’ve met with some of the players after the game, congratulating them on what a great job they did, and they appreciate (the music) as well as the Nest does, and that helps fuel us to get pumped up for it… I was more interested in watching the game than what we were actually doing as a pep band. It was pretty astounding to be in that kind of area, to be with my school and cheering on that team.”

“Seven Nation Army,” by the White Stripes, and “Welcome to the Jungle,” another Guns n’ Roses cover, are Eagles Nest favorites. No matter the soundtrack, the group will continue to raise the volume. Burton won the Class A state title in the 55 meter hurdles last month and will miss Saturday’s basketball games to compete at the New England championship, but he said as he cheers for the Eagles, he likes to put himself in shoes of his friends on the court.

“There’s a ton of people being loud, and the most people you hear cheering when you’re on the court is the people cheering for you, I think that definitely helps your morale,” Burton said.

The Messalonskee girls are undefeated, and reaching the state championship game has been expected for months. The boys, on the other hand, stumbled a little in the regular season, finishing 13-5 and entering the tournament as the No. 5 seed, before reeling off three consecutive wins to reach their first state game. A former basketball player, Charette said he knows the hard work the Eagles put in to reach this goal.

“There’s something special (Coach Peter) McLaughlin has with these boys. When he says take 100 shots, it’s not about who finishes it first. I’ve seen Nate Violette, and he can sink 13 threes in a game, stay two hours after practice to finish all 100 (shots) with James Kouletsis,” Charette said. “The amount of effort I’ve seen these boys put in for three or four years this group has been together, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.”

The Eagles Nest’s plans for Saturday’s game haven’t been finalized, but they expect the band to rock, and to be loud.

“Go big or go home. It’s going to be huge,” Ferguson said.

“We have three hours where it’s just going to be basketball, and it’s going to be crazy,” Charette said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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