Giant killer Leavitt completes his historic season with an exclamation point

Giant killer Leavitt completes his historic season with an exclamation point

LEWISTON — Late in the second quarter of the Class C football championship game, Levitt quarterback Noah Carpenter capped an 18-yard scoring drive by running over Oceanside’s Benjamin Tripp. Carpenter fell on top of Tripp, who fell more under his feet than he was dealt with.

There’s no better metaphor for Levitt’s season. Since practices began in the August heat, anything Leavitt’s way has fallen in a heap.

With Oceanside’s 71-12 defeat on Saturday at Lewiston High’s Don Rowe Stadium, Leavitt erased what may have been a bit of doubt still circling the peripheries of Maine high school football. The Hornets are the best team in the state, and a strong contender for the best high school football team in state history.

Leavitt not only won the Class C title, but also had decisive victories this season over the winner of Saturday’s Class A championship game and the runner-up in Class B.

“We’re so focused on what we’re doing, it’s really hard to think about it,” said Mike Hathaway, Leavitt’s head coach since 2002. “When I woke up this morning, I felt like if we can pull this off today, we’re one of the best teams ever.” .

“People can argue about this, but this team did things that no other team in the state of Maine has ever done. So I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

It’s not just that the Hornets finished the season undefeated at 11-0. They accomplished this by playing undoubtedly the toughest schedule a Class C team has ever played. Historically, Maine high school football teams have played a schedule against others in their enrolling class. That changed starting last year, when coaches, in an effort to create greater competitive balance, began scheduling games against teams in other brackets to find suitable opponents.

This fall, Levitt had the best programs in the state — some with enrollments twice its size. There was a 21-14 win over Oxford Hills, the 2022 Class A state champion, on Sept. 23. And there was a 62-32 win over Lawrence, which lost to Kennebunk, 40-20, in the Class B state final Saturday at Portland Fitzpatrick Stadium. On October 14, the Hornets went on the road to Saco to take on Thornton Academy, rallying from an early 15-point deficit for a 35-21 win. On Saturday, Thornton won the Class A state title with a 24-14 win over Portland.

Levitt’s accomplishments tear apart the conventional wisdom argument that school size is the key to success.

Levitt has 572 students, according to numbers used by the Maine Principals Association to determine enrollment categories. That’s about a third the size of Lewiston (enrollment 1,505), and Leavitt’s team has gone 51-13 this season. Thornton Academy has an enrollment of 1,345. Oxford Hills has an enrollment of 1,055 students. These are three of the top six schools in the state, and the Hornets have beaten every one of them.

“It’s the standard that these guys follow every day when they come into the building. We practice, we practice hard. We make them prepare, and they have a lot to learn,” Hathaway said. “Like I always say, I coach the three best players in the state of Maine, and they are Noah Carpenter, (lineman) Jess Negley, and (wide receiver) Will Keech. They make all the big plays in all the big games, and it was no different today.

This year’s championship was Levitt’s second in a row and third in four seasons. Football coach Connie B. L. Lippert is a friend of Hathaway, and runs a summer football camp with Coach Leavitt. After two decades of Hathaway’s coaching tenure, their coach’s dedication and love of football is part of the program’s DNA, from the youth football leagues to the varsity, Lippert said.

“That continuity is huge,” Lippert said. “Their youth program is unbelievable. They reload every year. They probably know who their quarterback is going to be in 2029… It’s set up to produce great players.”

At the football camp Lippert runs with Hathaway, the high school players are asked to arrive at noon. Levitt’s players are there every day by 11 a.m., ready to go, Lippert said.

Carpenter said expanding on the winning tradition established by Leavitt’s former players is important. He looked up to former Hornets greats like Hunter Hayes and Wyatt Hathaway, Mike’s son, and wanted to build on what they left.

“We’ve all been watching for many years. We’ve had role models to look up to, and it’s nice to be able to fill these guys’ shoes. The first team in this program is running back. It’s a feeling,” Carpenter said after throwing three touchdown passes and running for another Saturday. good”.

Over the years, there have been other strong teams in Class B or C that can keep up with the best teams in Class A. Like the 2008 Mountain Valley team that moved up to Class B in 2008 and won the state final 52-7 over Morse. Or Winslow’s undefeated 1993 team that beat Wells 55-0 in a Class 2 state game. These teams have never had the opportunity to schedule games against top players like Levitt did this year.

Jim Aylward coached Mountain Valley in 2008. As his team left Fitzpatrick Stadium with the Golden Ball, he watched the Bonnie Eagle take the field to warm up for the Division I final. He looked at the Scots and thought they were very big boys.

“Then I looked at our guys, and I thought, ‘We have pretty big boys, too,’” Aylward said. “I’m proud of what (Levitt) did. They tried to play the best of the best. You have to respect guys like that.”

The closest comparison to this Leavitt team is Marshwood, which won Class C in 1986, moved up to Class B and won the state title in 1988, then moved up to Class A and won it in 1989. Steve Knight was the standout player in that class. The 1988 and 1989 teams won the state’s top Fitzpatrick Trophy as a senior. Knight now lives in Massachusetts and did not follow Levitt. However, he can communicate.

“We always wanted to do the best, because we felt like we were the best,” Knight said.

This is the sentiment that Hathaway and his team embrace.

“You have a lot of guys who love football, who love each other. When you have that and you come to work every day, a lot of things can happen,” Hathaway said. “Their focus is that guys love to win. They really like it. There were some games that we fell behind this year, and they weren’t broken down into phases.

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