AUGUSTA — To B.L. Lippert, Maine Elite Passing Camp takes on a meeting greater than a summer football showcase.

For several years now, the July football camp has provided Maine high school football players and coaches with opportunities for skill development and exposure. Yet for the Cony head coach, it’s also a reminder that football season isn’t too far away.

“This is when it really starts to feel real,” Lippert said. “We’ve been doing this camp for about six years now, and as coaches, we’ll all show up and start picking each other’s brains about some stuff we’ve picked up in the offseason. This is the first sign that football is on the way for us.”

The pads, helmets and uniforms aren’t on just yet, but neither that nor the hot July sun stifled the atmosphere at this year’s camp at Cony High School. Players participated in individual and team drills against their top counterparts from throughout the state in a four-day camp that gave them a little taste of what’s ahead in the coming months.

First implemented in 2017, Maine Elite Passing Camp was created to improve the quality of teams’ passing games. It has been held every year since, even during a summer 2020 that saw substantial restrictions put in place for sporting activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, the camp was attended by quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends and defensive backs, the most involved players in the passing game on either side of the ball. Yet starting with last year’s edition, linemen have also been included in the week’s activities.


Mt. Blue football coach Matt Friedman, left, and Leavitt football coach Mike Hathaway watch players at the Maine Elite Passing Camp on Wednesday at Fuller Field in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Getting some of those big linemen down here over the past couple years has been great for us,” said Lippert, who leads the camp with fellow state championship-winning coaches Kevin Cooper of Bonny Eagles and Mike Hathaway of Leavitt. “They need to work on their craft in the summer, too.”

It’s a chance for those coaches to share knowledge with one another, as Lippert noted, and to work with kids that they might not otherwise see on the other side of the line of scrimmage. A quick look at the list of past participants, he added, is a reminder of the sheer talent at the camp.

“We always appreciate that the best of the best are here, and I think that’s borne out when you look at the Fitzy list,” Lippert said. “We take a lot of pride in trying to provide the best experience that we can for them.”


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Although the Mt. Blue football program is steeped in tradition, the Cougars have recently been mired in volatility.

Over the past seven years, Mt. Blue has had five different head coaches don the headset at Caldwell Field. It’s led to some less-than-stellar results for the Cougars, who have had just one winning season during that span.

Mt. Blue football coach Matt Friedman runs drills with players at the Maine Elite Passing Camp on Wednesday at Fuller Field in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The program needs some stability,” said first-year head coach Matt Friedman. “(It needs someone) who can help these kids get better as athletes and as people and get its feet under it to get back to where it used to be.”

Friedman began coaching high school football in 2001 as an assistant at Jay High School, his alma mater. After being head coach at Madison (2009-11) and Skowhegan (2012-16), Friedman spent one season as Husson University’s wide receivers coach in 2017 before leaving coaching for a year and returning as Mt. Blue’s offensive coordinator in 2019.

Although Mt. Blue was a football powerhouse as recently as 10 years ago, the Cougars have recently fallen on tougher times with a record of 15-27  since 2016. The team went just 1-6 in 2021 and finished dead last in the eight-team Class B North field.

This year, Class B North coaches picked Mt. Blue to finish once again at the bottom of the league, which is now a 10-team division. Yet Friedman, who is replacing Scott Franzose as head coach, thinks the Cougars will surprise many opponents in 2022.


“We were very young last year, so we did struggle, but I feel good about the kids we have coming back,” Friedman said. “We have a lot of sophomores and juniors that got significant time last year that have come back as juniors and seniors, so I feel we’re going to be much-improved.”

Win or lose this season, Friedman plans on building the program to last. After years of coaches leaving the post quickly, Friedman intends to be a mainstay who can provide the Cougars with the aforementioned stability they need.

“When I interviewed, my comment to the committee was, ‘If I’m chosen, my plan is that I’m going to retire at this job,’” Friedman said. “I don’t plan on going anywhere; I plan on being with Mt. Blue football for as long as I remain in coaching.”


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After being canceled two years ago and played in a modified format last year, the Shrine Lobster Bowl has finally returned to a traditional buildup and structure in 2022. 

Just one week remains until the Lobster Bowl, which will be played at 4 p.m., July 16 at Lewiston High School. The 32nd edition of the game is back to a tackle format after being axed outright in 2020 and held in a seven-on-seven tournament format last year.

Quarterbacks throw their footballs to different receivers at the Maine Elite Passing Camp on Wednesday at Fuller Field in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“For me, the Lobster Bowl is the single most important sporting event in Maine every year,” Lippert said. “We did what we could last year with the seven-on-seven version, but it just wasn’t the same, so it’s good to get back to playing actual football again. Hopefully, there’ll be a big crowd in Lewiston to support a good cause.”

Locally, Ryan Banister of Gardiner, Seth White of Maranacook, Caden Thompson of Oak Hill and Logan Baird of Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale will represent the West team. The West will be coached by Chris Kates, who, along with East head coach Danny White of Foxcroft, had been scheduled to coach the 2020 game before the pandemic forced its cancellation.

Playing for the East are Ashton Dennett and Casey Mills of Cony, Nate Grard of Lawrence, Jackson Theriault of Madison, Bryce Bussell of Maine Central Institute, Brayden Perkins and Brady Doucette of Messalonskee, Sam Valleau of Mount View, Marcus Hampton of Skowhegan, Liam Von Oesen of Waterville and Evan Bourget of Winslow.

Foxcroft Academy is set to host a Lobster Bowl media day at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Along with team practices and the return to a tackle competition, that media day will be part of a weekly schedule that’s made a long-awaited return to the pre-2020 norm this year.

“It’s great to see it go back to the way it was in 2019 before with going back to tackle football and having the practices up here at Foxcroft,” White said. “With what the Shrine stands for, you want to offer as much as possible. It feels right again, and it’s exciting.” 

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