Nov. 20—When Leavitt defeated Oceanside 71-12 in the Class C title game, it did more than earn its second consecutive state championship with its second consecutive perfect season.
The Hornets finished off one of the best seasons in Maine high school football history.
"It's hard to put it into words now, but I told the kids after the game, like that's immortality right there," Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. "We just put up a season that nobody else in Maine has ever put up before. And that'll go down forever. Nobody's taking that one away from us."
Coming off a dominant 2022 campaign and with many of their top players returning, the Hornets entered this season with a chance to do something special. They weren't content to beat Class C, they wanted to test themselves against the best in the state.
Their regular season schedule included reigning Class A champion Oxford Hills, eventual Class A champ Thornton and Class B finalist Lawrence.
"We knew our ability coming into the season, we knew that we were a good team, and we wanted to prove to everyone that just because we're Class C that doesn't mean that we can't play with anyone that's in the state," senior quarterback Noah Carpenter said. "We kind of just realized that we have the talent, we have the skill players and obviously the linemen to do it, so why not do it?"
I don't know enough to say if Leavitt is the best team in Maine history. I'm sure there aren't many, if any, teams that have had seasons as good as the 2023 Hornets.
But they are immortal.
Immortality isn't an accident and it isn't luck. It takes work, focus and some magic. It takes talent, teamwork and years of hard work. It takes quality and quantity.
Leavitt has won 22 straight games, including 11 this season. The seniors only lost one game of 11-on-11 tackle football, and that was a last-second loss to Cape Elizabeth in the 2021 Class C South final.
Thornton, Oxford Hills and Lawrence are ranked second, fifth and eighth, respectively, in the final Varsity Maine football poll. The Hornets — ranked No. 1, obviously — also have two wins over Fryeburg, which is ranked sixth. That's five of their 11 victories this season against some of the state's top teams.
The Hornets remained focused for all 11 games. Throughout the season, they have said that each team received the same amount of effort and preparation.
"We have a sign above the locker room and says, 'Play like a champion.' And I think we really hold ourselves to it," senior Will Keach said last week. "Each and every day, we come out here, everyone buys in and we get the work done."
Every practice was important. Every game mattered. Every opponent could beat them. Every player contributed.
Every player is ready to contribute.
In the fourth quarter of Saturday's state championship game, senior Brandon Bilodeau took a handoff, ran toward the sideline, turned upfield, then darted through a hole all the way to the end zone for the final six points of Leavitt's season.
"That was great," Bilodeau said of his 14-yard touchdown. "I don't usually get my opportunities that much because we've got kids ahead of me that are just top stars. ... But getting in there, getting in the end zone, just felt great. In the state game is just awesome."
Hathaway has said that the Hornets have the three best players in the state, seniors Carpenter, lineman Jace Negley and slot/linebacker Will Keach. Those three lived up to that claim against Oceanside: Carpenter threw three touchdown passes and had a 34-yard run for another score, Keach scored three touchdowns. Negley pressured the Mariners throughout the game and blocked a punt that led to Maddox Demers' 6-yard return for the first score of the game. Negley even ran for the first touchdown of his career.
But in the state final, as in the rest of the season, the greatness of the Hornets showed in the several players who made an impact on both sides of the ball.
"Brandon Bilodeau, with that last touchdown," Hathaway said, "that's a kid that works hard, doesn't really play offense, but he's been great all year for us on D."
Bilodeau had four interceptions this season, including one against Oxford Hills, and returned a punt for a touchdown. He carried the ball only four times but scored on two of those.
Demers is another one of the state's top players. He returned the blocked punt for a score and forced a fumble Saturday. He was one of the Hornets' go-to players on offense this season and one of their best defenders with double-digit sacks and about 20 tackles for loss.
Aiden Turcotte caught four passes Saturday, including a 44-yard touchdown, his sixth of the season. He also played important defense on Fryeburg receiver Logan Walton during Leavitt's second-half comeback in the regional final a week earlier.
Colten Taylor carried the ball less than 30 times this season, but he averaged about 10 yards per carry. He also made several tackles for loss. Against Oceanside, he recovered a fumble.
Keegan Reny, who moved to tight end this season, caught a 34-yard touchdown pass against Oceanside and made a nifty one-handed catch on a two-point conversion. He also had a pair of touchdowns in the C South final, and Hathaway said, played some of his best games in the postseason.
Sophomore Mason Henderson gave what is likely a glimpse of Leavitt's future throughout the season, including Saturday when he ran 45 yards for a touchdown.
Landon Daigle made a key interception against Oxford Hills and had big moments on both sides of the ball throughout the season. He, Turcotte, Henderson and Reny helped fill in the voids heading into this season at receiver and tight end.
"Keegan Reny had a great year for us at tight end, and he's not the prototype, but he was outstanding," Hathaway said. "And Landon Daigle, Mason Henderson, Turc, all them guys, they show up, work hard. I love it."
Mason Twitchell, Kavon Graham Jones, Aiden Levesque, Matt Rementer and Nash Angstrom helped Negley create a formidable offensive line and a disruptive front seven on defense.
Outside of Carpenter and Keach, most of the Hornets' individual stats aren't spectacular. But there are a lot of players with about 10 receptions, 15-20 carries and multiple touchdowns.
"We wait our turn," Bilodeau said. "Once we get our turn, we execute right. We do our job."
"They know that Noah and Will are going to get a lot of the stats and a lot of the publicity, but nobody cares," Hathaway said. "Those guys just want to win and they want to score points."
Leavitt's offense was too versatile, and too loaded, for any team to contain this season. And no team was able to solve its defense.
On both sides of the ball, the Hornets were too talented and too prepared.
The only downside to the state championship is it means the season is over.
"We've got a lot of guys that work hard and love each other, coaches and players and everything," Hathaway said. "Like, if you watch the last practice (Friday) night, just seeing the kids with their position coaches and how much love there is amongst that group, it's just special that way.
"So the championships are great, but the atmosphere and the environment that we've created with the coaches and the kids, it's just second to none to me, man. I love showing up every day."
The fun picks up again next year. It's hard to imagine the Hornets being as good as they were this year. A team doesn't just replace Noah Carpenter. But Reny, Daigle and Henderson will be back, and there will be several weapons and impact players who were just waiting their turns.
So expect Leavitt to compete for another Class C title. And, likely, some level of greatness.
Varsity Maine football poll: Leavitt completes championship season with No. 1 ranking
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