SKOWHEGAN — Rasheed Parker made his practice throw, and the tire soared from his hand. Barely a wobble, the tire carried as gracefully as a tire can. Matt Gilley, Parker’s football coach at Waterville Senior High School, cheered him on.

“Yeah, Rasheed,” Gilley said. “That’ll do.”

Parker winked and shrugged. He figured he had a better throw in him. A few minutes later, he did.

“You’re grabbing it and trying to throw it as far as you can,” Parker, a senior, said.

Saturday, Skowhegan hosted the annual Central Maine Skills Challenge at Clark Field, which included the Big Man Battle. While there was a 7 on 7 football tournament for the skill position guys, the highlight was the strength events that allow linemen to show off their talents. Among those events, there’s not much for straightforward than the tire throw. You pick up a tire. You throw it as far as you can. It was part discus, part shot put, and part game invented in the backyard on a dare.

For the guys with a background in throwing events with their track and field teams, it was a matter of applying those throwing principles to a larger, much more unwieldy, object. After his first throw, Skowhegan senior Kolby Coro grabbed a spare tire and went off to the side to work on his technique.

“I think the best thing you can do is get a good spin and try and let it go up high. You want to let it go up here,” Coro said, holding his right arm high above his body, “so you can get all the height.”

Coro’s side session worked. His first throw was 27 feet, 5 inches. After fine tuning his approach, Coro’s second toss went 34-11.

“It’s all explosive movements. Everything we would practice on a practice field, everything we do in a game,” Waterville junior John Evans said.

An offensive or defensive lineman will never be asked to throw much of anything in a game, unless he has a crafty coach who likes to pull the left tackle option pass out of the book of trick plays. A lineman will be asked to move in quick bursts, though, and drive the player across from him back. That takes full body strength, and that was what was on display Saturday.

“I think it’s some of the work we’ve been doing in our weight room. To be able to come out here and show it in more of an event-style thing,” Bonny Eagle head coach Kevin Cooper said. “This tire throw here incorporates some of the power cleans and the work we’ve been doing. It gives the linemen a chance to come out and have fun, competition-style, after working in the weight room like that… The ability to activate your hips and be powerful with your legs, those are skills that any football player, especially linemen, can really use.”

With 7 on 7 leagues and tournaments all summer, the Big Man Challenge is a day the lineman can show off what they can do. Every time a quarterback makes a nice pass, it’s because a lineman held a defender at bay long enough for the receiver to get open. Every time a running back breaks off a 50-yard touchdown run, it’s because a lineman blew open the hole.

“It’s great to have a day just for linemen to show off our talents, which usually get swept under the rug. I kind of like that,” Evans said.

Nobody is winning or losing a starting position on the basis of how far he can throw a tire in June. That said, coaches like Cooper can see who has been in the weight room. They can see who has put in the offseason work and will be ready to compete for a starting spot when practices open in August.

“We’re mostly here to have fun and let our kids bond a little bit as linemen, but certainly, if you see a kid flip a heavy tire or throw one far, it kind of gets you excited for the fall and what they’re going to do on the field,” Cooper said.

On his first official throw, Parker managed 36 feet. A good throw, but he knew he could do better. Parker announced he would throw 38 feet on his second try. Gilley told him to go for 40.

Parker spun, and dipped, finding driving power in his legs. That’s the driving power he’ll need in the fall to open holes for Purple Panther runners. Potential energy became kinetic energy and pushed up through his body, into his chest, shoulders, and arm as Parker let the tire go.

This second throw was 42 feet, 4 inches.

“It’s really fun to do this. We don’t have the things in the summer. Wide receivers and quarterbacks and running backs, they have their 7 on 7’s all year long. This is the one thing for us. I’m happy to be here,” Parker said.

The Waterville football team struggled through a winless season last fall. As he considered how what he did in the Big Man Challenge would translate into his effort on the football field, Parker thought about that.

“I’m just going to go all out this football season,” Parker said.

Games aren’t won by throwing a tire in June, either, but motivation’s fire gets stoked.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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