Mount View School football players celebrate a touchdown against Waterville last season in Thorndike. Michael G. Seamans

THORNDIKE — On Aug. 15, Rick Leary received news that he could only describe as a gut punch.

Leary, the head coach of the Mount View football team, was in the midst of the first day that Maine high school sports teams were eligible to begin fall practices. A day that often serves as the hopeful beginning for athletes throughout the state instead soon turned into doomsday as Leary learned the program might be in its final days — literally.

“We had 14 kids, and (the athletic director) told me that, if we didn’t get 16 kids, we were going to shut the program down Wednesday,” Leary said. “You go from getting ready for the season to, suddenly, you’re looking at not having one. I went home with a sickness in my stomach.”

Fortunately for Mount View, the program was able to secure enough players in that 48-hour window to keep going. On Saturday, a season that began in the worst way possible saw the Mustangs earn a 58-8 victory over St. John Valley on a day their head coach said he’ll never forget.

Offensively, junior standout Wyatt Evensen had a mammoth day for Mount View as he registered 386 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns. The Mustangs also got a big game on defense from Josiah Miller, who had four interceptions and made 11 tackles.

Mount View spent roughly 4-5 times traveling to and from the game than it actually did on the football field at Madawaska High School. The Mustangs were the first team to play a regular-season game at St. John Valley, a new cooperative team between Madawaska, Fort Kent and Wisdom.


“It was five and a half hours there and five and a half back,” Leary said. “We left around 6:30 in the morning, and then we made a few stops along the way at a picnic area and made some sandwiches. … By the time we got back, it was 10 at night. It was a long day, but we had some great team bonding.”

Given the nature of the long bus ride — possibly the longest bus ride in Maine high school football history — that aforementioned stop for food was a crucial one. Mount View would make two more stops on the way to Madawaska to keep its legs loose for the game.

The field at Madawaska High School is only 1,500 feet from the St. John River, which separates the northern Aroostook County town from Edmunston, New Brunswick. At one point in the trip, Leary said, he got a phone alert that reminded him of just how far he was from home.

“There was one spot where I got a message on my phone that said, ‘Welcome to Canada; you may be roaming,” said Leary, who spent 30 years as an assistant at Lawrence, Messalonskee and Winslow before coming on as Mount View’s head coach in 2017. “You’re so far up there. … It’s the longest trip I’ve ever been on.”

The win came following a 48-15 defeat against reigning eight-man Small-School champion Dexter in which Mount View, now at 20 players when at full strength, was missing five starters. The Mustangs put forth a noble effort in that contest, trailing just 13-8 after the first quarter despite starting six freshmen.

Those starters were back for Leary’s team in the win over St. John Valley, just the third win since the start of the 2019 season for a Mount View program that has been struggling with numbers. For the Mustangs, who were hoping just to be able to play a month ago, no one was about to complain about how far they had to go for that win.


“They’re good kids, and this was life-changing for them, in my opinion,” Leary said. “My wife passed a few years back, and I’ve been struggling with that myself, so to be back out there with those kids and to see their positive attitude and what this means to them, it lifts me up, too.”


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Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale running back Robby Feeney runs the ball during a football game against Foxcroft on Sept. 2 in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Late in Friday night’s game, Dave St. Hilaire was getting a feeling of déjà vu.

St. Hilaire’s Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football team lost very close battles in its last two games, a three-point loss to Foxcroft in last season’s state title game and an overtime defeat to the Ponies in Week 1. After Hermon drove down the field to tie the Ramblers’ Week 2 contest late, their head coach had flashbacks.


Yet this time, Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale would emerge on the winning end of a classic ballgame. The Ramblers would respond to the tying score with a touchdown drive of their own with just nine seconds to play to earn a 34-28 road victory over a strong Hermon squad.

“It was like, ‘Oh, boy; here comes another one,’” St. Hilaire said of his feelings after Hermon tied the game at 28 late in the fourth quarter. “We were in a close one the week before, and then you think back to that game last year. It was good to be able to win one of those close games, especially against a very good team.”

After getting the ball at its own 40 with 3:23 to play, Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale needed less than a minute to move into the red zone. After Dominic Trott scored from 2 yards out in the dying seconds, the Ramblers’ Brayden Stubbert deflected Hermon’s desperation pass into the hands of teammate Isaac Oliveira as time expired.

Although Hermon’s late score and 2-point conversion to tie the game could have been deflating for Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale, that ultimately proved not to be the case. In fact, St. Hilaire said that scoring drive by the home team was one that made the Ramblers stronger.

“Even though they scored, I thought we grew up a lot defensively on that drive,” St. Hilaire said. “We made some good plays and some chances to stop them; they just were able to punch it in. Then, when we got the ball back, we ran the sweep left with Robby Feeney quite a bit, and they just had no answer for it.”



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The Cony football team rolled to a 28-7 victory over Massabesic on Friday night at Fuller Field. But it was also the program’s annual Autism Awareness Night, a tradition started back in 2017 by head coach B.L. Lippert, where the entire staff sports T-shirts during the game bringing attention to the cause.

Those same T-shirts were also available to fans near the concession stand before the game. A letter from Maine Gov. Janet Mills, praising the effort, was read over the public address system before the game. It’s something that hits home for Lippert. His son, Lincoln, was diagnosed with autism in 2017.

But Cony wasn’t the only staff sporting the T-shirts on Friday night. Far from it. Lippert said a total of 35 teams throughout the state agreed to wear the T-shirts, showing their support.

“It’s really important,” Lippert said. “My son was diagnosed in 2017, and I thought that maybe I should get done with coaching. But I thought, if I could somehow meld my football coaching experience with autism and raising awareness in this community alone, making his life a little easier and people can be more understanding and loving of him, that would be good.


“I didn’t expect it to branch out,” Lippert continued. “We had 35 high schools wearing these T-shirts tonight. It speaks a lot to the character of those coaching staffs that they want to support kids in their communities that are struggling.”

The coaching staffs of Medomak Valley, South Portland, Marshwood, Noble, Fryeburg Academy, Kennebunk were among the contingent of teams wearing the shirts over the weekend, taking group pictures and posting on social media.

In support of Lincoln, Cony players put “LL” on the back of their helmets before the game, a gesture that made their head coach emotional after the win.

“You spend a lot of time with these kids,” Lippert said. “It’s good to know that the message gets through and they care about people. I love those guys, and I think they love what this night represents.”


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The Gardiner Tigers carry flags as they run onto Hoch Field for their first official football game on the new field turf surface Friday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gardiner celebrated its return to Hoch Field after two seasons away with a 43-0 dismantling of Belfast on Friday. The Tigers didn’t play at all in 2020 (COVID-19) and played its 2021 home games at Messalonskee High School in Oakland while Hoch received a new artificial turf surface to replace the worn-out grass field.

While Gardiner held a postseason intrasquad dress rehearsal last November, Friday marked its first regular-season game on the new field, which features sponsor ads and a giant Clemson-esque orange paw at midfield.

After Friday’s win, the players gave the surface — and the experience of finally playing close to home — rave reviews.

“It feels really good,” said Tigers senior quarterback Wyatt Chadwick, who threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns in front of a packed crowd. “To play a real, full game here, that was a great experience.”

Wide receiver Zach Kristan, who caught seven passes for 146 yards and two scores, agreed.

“We’ve been practicing on it for a little while, so we were pretty acclimated,” said the junior, who had never played a home game in Gardiner before Friday. “It was great. It felt good.”


Staff reporters David Bailey and Dave Dyer contributed to this report.

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