Lawrence quarterback Michael Hamlin (7) is pressured by Skowhegan’s Kyle LePage (58during a Sept. 2 game in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

FAIRFIELD — When Maine high school football coaches previously learned of the increase in the number of crossover games this season, John Hersom and Mike Hathaway immediately had each other in mind.

Separated by regions and class sizes, competitions between Lawrence and Leavitt are rare in virtually every sport. Yet when the two schools did meet one another in a junior varsity football game last year, it was an experience that those at the helm of the varsity programs wanted to see play out at a higher level.

“It happened to be a day that was a holiday, so we were all able to come out and watch,” said Hersom, Lawrence’s head coach of 17 seasons. “Both JV teams played very well, and on that day, I saw Mike and said, ‘Geez, why wouldn’t we want to play each other in a varsity game?’”

The matchup between Lawrence (2-2) and Leavitt (4-0), whom neither head coach can recall having met in a varsity game before, was one of the first to be finalized when scheduling was done in the spring. Now, it’s here as the Bulldogs get set to travel to Turner to kick off the second half of the regular season.

Although Leavitt has lost just once since the start of the 2019 season (2021 Class C South title game vs. Cape Elizabeth), it might be putting together its most impressive season of all this year. The Hornets have taken teams from various class levels and simply dismantled them, beating York 50-0,  Class B Portland 42-8, Class A Lewiston 53-21 and Wells 36-0.

At quarterback, Leavitt boasts a potent dual threat in junior Noah Carpenter. The Hornets also have a one-two punch at running back in Maddox Demers and Will Keach, a dynamic slot receiver in Dayton Calder and a 6-foot-4 pass-catching tight end in Brett Coburn.


Yet for all of Leavitt’s success at the skill positions, the Hornets have also been able to manhandle opposing defensive lines in the trenches. Led by Beau Mayo and Jace Negley, Leavitt’s offensive line has retained its reputation as one of the top units around, a development some perhaps didn’t expect prior to the season.

Lawrence defenders Carter Colton (28) and Parker Higgins (32) tackle Skowhegan’s Brandon Wyman (20) during a Sept. 2 game in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“Our offensive line had to hear all offseason how we lost so many good guys on the line and how that was going to be a struggle for us this year,” Hathaway said. “They put a lot of time in the weight room and on the field in the offseason to get better. That’s been the biggest surprise for us early on, I think.”

Lawrence, though, has a threat the likes of which Leavitt hasn’t seen this season in Parker Higgins. After being held under the 100-yard mark in his first two games against Skowhegan and Windham, the senior back regained his form against Bangor and Brewer as he combined for eight touchdowns and more than 400 yards on the ground.

Much of that, Hersom said, has come from Higgins getting more consistency as of late from his offensive line. Lawrence, which had to break in a multitude of new starters on the line this year, has seen that unit become stronger and more cohesive as the season’s progressed.

“I think our line definitely has a lot to do with (Parker’s uptick in production),” Hersom said. “That first week of the season, our line was definitely not up to the speed of Skowhegan’s defense, and that limited his yardage. We’ve definitely seen a lot of improvement on our line, and that means Parker is going to have more yards for us.”

Lawrence has other weapons that Hathaway knows his team must be prepared to handle. Just as Leavitt has a large pass-catching tight end in Coburn, the Bulldogs have their own big receiving threat at the position in Lucas Campbell. Sophomore quarterback Michael Hamlin, the Leavitt head coach added, is “about to become a star.”


Leavitt’s Maddox Demers, left, avoids a last gasp lunge by Lewiston’s Dylan Allen during a Sept. 17 game in Turner. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

It starts, though, with preventing Higgins from putting up gaudy numbers while seemingly running to the end zone on repeat. Skowhegan and Windham, both of which beat Lawrence by multiple scores, were able to do that; Bangor and Brewer, which gave up a combined 97 points to the Bulldogs, were not.

“You never can over-key on somebody because those coaches over there are good enough to exploit that if you do, but at the same time, you’ve got to have something to slow him down,” Hathaway said. “We played against the Wing-T last week against Wells, but Lawrence’s is a little more spread out, so we’ll have to scheme to contain him.”

Although past matchups between Lawrence and Leavitt, if any, would have far preceded Hathaway and Hersom’s tenures, there is a connection between the programs through the Hersom family. Hersom’s brother, Jim, was an assistant coach on Leavitt’s 2009 state championship-winning squad, and his nephew, Jordan, was that team’s starting quarterback.

For Hersom, Friday night’s matchup with the Hornets is possibly the toughest matchup yet. That’s saying something, especially considering that the Skowhegan team against which Lawrence opened the season is looking like one of the state’s best.

“They’re big up front, they’re well-coached, and they work as well together as any team you’ll see,” Hersom said. “It’s a big challenge for us, but you have to be able to take on those challenges, and we’re looking forward to it.”

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