Nov. 17—Every football game starts with a kickoff, but the discussion heading into Saturday's Class C state championship game starts — on paper — with the two starting quarterbacks.
That would be Leavitt's Noah Carpenter, the reigning Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, and the equally impressive Cohen Galley of Oceanside.
Both signal-callers are dual-threat players, each with 40 or more touchdowns — Carpenter has 22 rushing TDs and 18 passing, while Galley has 23 of each. And their control of their respective offenses has the two state finalists rolling.
"We are a little unique on offense, so everyone has their own philosophy on how to defend us," Oceanside coach Sam Weiss said. "Once we see what they do, it's on Cohen to distribute the ball well, Aiden (Sargent) to keep doing what he is doing (at running back), and our line to hold their own up front."
"Obviously, it starts with Cohen Galley and his ability to run and throw," Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. "They have a good core of receivers, including his brother Carter, and Aiden Sergent is a tough runner in the backfield, and their O-line has good size."
Hathaway, meanwhile, is looking for Carpenter to make his reads and spread the ball around. Many of the skill position players at his disposal have increased roles from last year, and even from the beginning of this season. That includes Keegan Reny, who has developed into a solid tight end.
"That's been a big spot in our offense for quite a while, and it was a completely new position for him," Hathaway said. "His blocking has been a huge plus for us and he finds big plays in the pass game."
Reny made two touchdown catches in last week's Class C South final, which Hathaway called probably the best game of Reny's career.
Aiden Turcotte, Landon Daigle and Mason Henderson have also given Leavitt some explosive plays down the stretch.
"Leavitt is special. You can't just keep on Carpenter, they'll beat you with their other weapons," said Weiss, noting that the Mariners haven't played great defense late in the season.
"We've got to be more physical," he said. "If we do our job on defense, we should be good."
Hathaway sees a Oceanside defense that has good size on the line, strong, athletic players at linebacker, and defensive backs who are athletic and run well.
The Mariners have three shutouts to their credit, all coming during a four-game stretch from Week 3 to Week 6 that included only six points allowed in the other game. But what followed were games in which Oceanside gave up 40 points to York (which Leavitt beat 63-13 in Week 3) and 30 to Medomak Valley to close out the regular season. The Mariners also allowed 22 to Medomak in the regional final.
The 32 points Fryeburg Academy scored in last week's regional final tie for the most the Hornets have given up this season, equaling what Class B finalist Lawrence scored in the Hornets' 62-32 Week 5 victory. But the Mariners are as balanced on offense as anybody, and, according to Hathaway, "they use primarily stack formations, which you don't see a ton, and they have some read plays, so that takes some preparation."
That preparation is what the Hornets have been focusing on since winning the C South title Saturday night.
"... And enjoying that process one more time together," Hathaway said.
Saturday's state final will mark a bit of a reunion for Hathaway.
No, not because he has led Leavitt to championship games numerous times — though he has; this is the Hornets eighth appearance during his tenure — but because of who will be leading the charge on the other sideline.
Hathaway knows Weiss well, and has ties to Weiss' family from even before Sam became head coach at Oceanside.
"Sam's uncle, Daryle, was a great friend of mine. Daryle was a coach, actually, at Rockland before it became Oceanside. And then he was at Westbrook for a little while and ended up at Bates with Skip Capone," Hathaway said.
"When I first went to the spread and to the (shotgun), Daryle was doing the same thing. So we were going to clinics together, like we'd travel to New Jersey to see ... Mike Leach and some other guys," Hathaway continued. "So I've known the Weiss family for a long time. And Sam's dad, Billy, and I played noontime basketball at Bates for, like, 10 summers together.
"And I've known Sam for a long time, you know, knew him as a player. Lobster Bowls. You know, I've been around him. So that piece of it is kind of cool, to see somebody you know take a program, especially a young coach now, too, like, you see a young guy doing a great job."
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