Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of our series, “Remember When,” in which we revisit some of the memorable games, events, streaks and runs in high school spring sports we’ve covered over the last few decades.

The 2012 Mt. Blue football team had seen enough.

The Cougars made the playoffs and fell short in each of the last two seasons, making it as far as the Eastern Class A semifinals in 2010. Mt. Blue fell in agonizing fashion the following year, 22-21 in overtime to Leavitt in the 2011 Eastern B final.

“We were just all in the locker room (after the Leavitt game),” Mt. Blue quarterback Jordan Whitney said. “And the Class of 2013, I feel like we all just looked at each other and had the same feeling, that we needed to prove to (the upperclassmen) that helped us get where we were. Going into (2012), we came together and said ‘This is it.’ We had been waiting a long time for this, and we were just ready. Our mindsets were ‘We want to get to the ‘ship, and we want to get this over with. We want to prove we’re the team to beat.'”

With a senior class raised on the pride and tradition of the program, the Cougars were determined to stop at nothing to bring home their first state championship since 1980 — when they beat Lawrence 13-7 for the Class B crown. And sure enough, that’s exactly what the Cougars would do, rolling to a perfect 12-0 season that culminated with a 44-42 victory over Marshwood at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland for their first Gold Ball in 32 years.

“We knew (in 2012) we were going to come back even stronger,” running back/linebacker Chad Luker said. “It turned out great, it was a great season.”

Mt. Blue had few holes on either side of the ball, boasting a multi-dimensional offense and a stout defense. Offensively, it all started with Whitney, who was a threat both with his arm and with his legs. In 2012, Whitney completed 102 passes on 148 attempts (69 percent), for 1,755 yards, tossing 29 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He also ran for 658 yards, with five touchdown runs. In his career, Whitney passed for 4,924 yards and 65 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdown runs.

“If you’ve got Jordan Whitney (you’re good),” linebacker Bradley Jackson said. “The guy could play any position on the field.”

But he wasn’t alone. Whitney had multiple weapons with him in the backfield, including Luker and fellow running back Calan Lucas.

“We could throw the football, and we had the receivers to do it,” Whitney said. “We could split Chad Luker out in the slot route, he’s 225 pounds, and we can have him go one-on-one with a linebacker. Then, you had two on the outside in (Nate) Backus, who was real speedy, and (Nick) Hyde, who could go past anyone. Then, when you get down to the (end zone), you could give the ball to any one of our running backs.”

Defensively, the Cougars were tough at linebacker with Luker and Jackson. The pair formed one of the best linebacking duos in the state.

“Me and Bradley at linebacker, we led the state in tackles,” Luker said. “We didn’t really have any weaknesses on the team, I’d say that.”

Finishing the regular season 8-0, the Cougars had a near slip-up in the Eastern Class B quarterfinals, edging Mt. Desert Island 14-13. The Cougars were saved by Jackson in that game, as he was able to swat away a 2-point conversion pass from MDI’s Jon Phelps to help secure the win late in the game.

But Mt. Blue had no issue with Gardiner (33-21) in the semifinals, and cruised to a 42-14 victory over Waterville in the regional final. In a sign of things to come, Luker would finish the game with four touchdown runs, while Lucas ran for nearly 150 yards, adding a touchdown in the process.

“We were just downhill runners, power backs,” Luker said. “Calan Lucas came in at the end of the season and proved himself to be good enough for the starting position. He didn’t start the season as a starter. But at the end, especially in the state game, if it weren’t for Calan, we probably would’ve lost.”

Mt. Blue running back Chad Luker receives a hug from a teammate after the Cougars recovered a fumble in the closing seconds of the 2012 Class B state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Portland Press Herald file photo

The stage was set for the Cougars to face Marshwood for the Class B title. The Hawks were in the infancy of its dynasty under head coach Alex Rotsko, who had taken over the program after leading Longmeadow (Mass.) High School to 15 “Super Bowl” appearances from 1997-2011.. Before taking over the program in 2012, the Hawks had stumbled to three straight 2-6 seasons. But Rotsko turned Marshwood back into a state contender. Since 2012, the Hawks have made six Class B title game appearances, winning the Gold Ball five times.

The game was a slugfest. Mt. Blue managed to hold a 26-21 lead at halftime, but Marshwood managed to pull within three points — a 38-35 score in favor of the Cougars — early in the fourth quarter. Mt. Blue was able to respond with one last scoring drive, as Whitney hit Zak Kendall with a 20-yard touchdown pass for a 44-35 score.

“The state championship had that back-and-forth, electric, you-can’t-swallow-your-teeth moment,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to hang. Yeah, we just scored, but they’re marching down the field on this drive.”

And while the Hawks responded with a touchdown on the following drive, the Cougars were able to hold on for the victory. Luker was a scoring machine for the Cougars that day, scoring five touchdowns — all on rushes of 10 yards or less — to lead Mt. Blue.

“We had a formation called ‘Elephant Formation,’ where we put all our big guys in the backfield, and I was the main running back,” Luker said. “I had two big guys in front of me, blocking for me.”

Luker was in trouble before the game even began, as he lost a key possession.

“I actually forgot my cleats that game,” Luker said. “We get to Portland from Farmington, and get into the locker room, an hour before the game. I go to get my cleats, and they weren’t there. I was freaking out, yelling, seeing if anyone had my size 13 cleats. Luckily, this freshman, Alex Gilbert, had size 13 cleats, and he let me use the cleats for the game. After the game, I went to go give them back to him, and he said ‘Nah, keep them.’ That was a pretty cool moment for me.”

Whitney ran for 117 yards on 13 carries. He also passed for 44 yards. Whitney was part of every phase of the game that night, starting on defense at defensive back, and also serving as Mt. Blue’s punter.

“(I remember) being out of breath,” Whitney joked. “Defensive-wise, I got moved to cornerback to help seal the edges so (Marshwood’s running backs) couldn’t get outside with that double-wing offense….(Marshwood) was so fast and so quick, the way they’d come back to their plays. There would be three (Marshwood players) coming at you, and you wouldn’t know what to do. Keep containment, keep containment.”

Mt. Blue quarterback Jordan Whitney tries to stretch for some extra yards during the 2012 Class B state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Portland Press Herald file photo

With the victory locked up, Mt. Blue was able to finally enjoy its first Gold Ball in 32 years.

“We were very in tune with the Mt. Blue football program from about the fourth grade on,” Jackson said. “Our parents, our family friends were all coming to our state game with patches on from the 1980 class that won the state championship…There’s nothing but toughness that’s taught to you from such a young age. How to carry yourself on and off the football field, be an athlete and do things the right way when nobody’s looking. When 10-20 guys show up to your football game state championship night, that were in that state championship class of 1980, it puts chills on you for sure.

“In a county like Franklin County, there’s a lot of ebbs and flows with the good and the bad,” Jackson continued. “You’re talking over 30 years without a state championship football team, in a community that’s lost a lot of people in it. And the mills are struggling in Jay and a lot of our parents and family members have worked there… We were either going to die that night, or we were going to win. Since we were kids, we’d have speeches written up before we went out and played the game. It was that important to us. And to this day, you can’t explain that to the every day person, ‘Yeah, alright, those were your glory days.’ To us, that was everything.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5610

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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