Members of the Winslow High School football program showed up for a high school sports rally Monday at the Blaine House in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — On the Monday of what promises to be one of the most important weeks in recent Maine high school sports history, athletes gathered along State Street in front of the Blaine House. They came wearing their jerseys. They brought signs. They walked, chanted, and made their voices heard.

It was a passionate bunch. It just should have been a larger one.

The rally in support of the the discussed and deliberated fall sports season, the second in five days, drew a larger group than the first such event, bringing together over 50 people, around 35 of whom were student-athletes, and nearly all of whom wore masks for the duration. Organizer Amy Michaud Bourget, whose son Evan plays for the Winslow football team, said she felt compelled to get a rally together, even before Kristie Miner organized the first one last Thursday.

“These kids really do all want to play,” she said. “They’ve all been working so hard over the summer. My son and all of his teammates, they’re all practicing together, they’re lifting, they’re getting ready. They’ve done everything that they’ve been asked to do, as far as taking the different phases one step at a time. And then (they’re) slapped with ‘Well, you’re probably not going to be able to play after all of that.’ ”

Bourget got the passion she was looking for from the people who were there. But she couldn’t help but notice the people — in particular, the athletes — who weren’t.

“I was hoping for a bigger turnout than this,” she said. “I was hoping for whole teams and stuff to come out. … My goals were to be able to have seas of these kids and their whole teams, strength in unity. I just wanted an overwhelming visual effect, maybe, of all these kids from around the state.”

Bourget should have gotten it. A decision on the fall season is expected by Thursday, and these rallies were the best chance for athletes to band together and make a concerted push to leave an indelible impression on the minds of those who will be deciding their fates on the field this fall.

That passion is there. There’s no question there are football players out there who are worried about losing their chance to play under the lights on a Friday night, soccer players and field hockey players who are nervous they won’t have a shot to play the sports they love, golfers and runners who are hoping against hope that they’ll have an opportunity to compete for championships.

Some even spoke to the Portland Press Herald about it. There’s no doubting the desire. The athletes want their falls.

“This is super important,” said Hailey McMahon, a senior on the Bangor girls soccer team who made the trip to Augusta on Monday. “This is my last chance to do whatever I can try to do. … We’re only an hour away. I thought it would be a good experience, if we could just try to save it. I know people struggle with mental health and need these sports to play.”

Students hold signs by the Blaine House in Augusta during a high school sports rally Monday morning. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

That desire, however, didn’t translate into turnout the way it should have with either this rally or Thursday’s, which drew about two dozen people. To be fair, there were extenuating circumstances. It was a weekday. People had work. The event didn’t really come together until Friday. Notice was short.

But the word was out, and athletes should have been driven to be on the scene, making sure they weren’t missing a chance to potentially save their season. Imagine if this had been what Bourget foresaw: Entire teams showing up, hundreds strong, proving just how determined they were to play and turning a good idea into an overwhelming statement? Imagine how much harder it would be for the powers that be to say no to hundreds of athletes making a stand, and not 50 while the rest sit at home and hope for the best?

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. But maybe it would.

“I know exactly what it’s like to be these kids and not have the opportunity that everyone gets,” said Jackson Reynolds, a former outfielder on the Winslow baseball team who lost his senior season in the spring. “You have to take action like this. You can’t sit there and beg and whine. You have to actually get out and do the things that make a difference.”

Reynolds, however, said he liked what he saw from the athletes that did attend. They came from all over, both in the area from Winthrop, Messalonskee and Maranacook, but also from as far as Bangor, Scarborough, South Portland and Windham. They carried signs reading “We go unafraid” and “Kids need sports,” and marched with a chant of “Let us play,” getting supportive honks from cars along the way.

The rally attracted the attention of a passing driver who handed out an “Impeach Mills” sign, and a Trump-supporting driver stopped by to address the group late in the rally, but the message remained about sports. And the group that assembled on Monday might have made the statement that it was hoping for.

“This is crucial for us and our futures. We put so much time and effort into being the best we can, being the best, the biggest, the fastest,” said Eric LoSacco, a senior on the Scarborough cross country team. “This is basically our entire lives. Letting this go would be pretty terrible for us.

“We need to let more people know. The more people that are with this cause, the more recognition we’ll get. And maybe we’ll get the government to listen to us.”

They spoke with a loud voice on Monday. We’ll find out soon if it was loud enough.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.