BANGOR, Maine — In a sports age of increasing technological reliance, sometimes it’s still the most rudimentary of equipment that makes the player.
For Joe Seccareccia, it’s a smallish pen that might normally hold a pet out in his back yard that has helped the Bangor High School junior become one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the state.
“I live out in the country [in Eddington] and there’s a big field out back, so I set up this dog pen that has a metal fence to throw the ball into,” said Seccareccia, who will lead the unbeaten Rams into Saturday’s 11 a.m. Class A state final against Windham at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“Then I’d make hash marks with paint, and start dropping back and throwing balls into the pen. If I made five of them, I’d go back to the next line, and if I didn’t I’d restart from the same line and I wouldn’t end the drill until I was back at the farthest line.“
That farthest line typically is about 40 yards from the pen, leaving Seccareccia plenty of distance to work on both his accuracy and arm strength during those offseason drills.
His reward this fall has been the arm strength to rifle passes out to teammate Nate Henigan in the flat and the accuracy to drop deep throws down the sideline into the hands of flanker Josiah Hartley.
Those targets, as well as tight end John Kelley and halfback Lonnie Hackett, have brought balance to the Bangor offense that has enabled the Rams to go 11-0 and earn its first trip to the state final since 2004.
Seccareccia has completed 79 of 140 passes for 1,211 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions this season, complementing the 2,057 rushing yards accumulated by Hackett.
It’s an offensive blend few rivals have been able to contain. The Rams are averaging 33.7 points per game.
“I wouldn’t want our defense to have to stop our offense,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “I think we’re a better offensive team than we are a defensive team. We’re getting better on defense all the time, but we’re a little scary with Lonnie’s quickness and speed and gumption and Secc’s ability to run and throw.”
Seccareccia’s contributions to the Rams’ success are not confined to offense — many people believe he is even better on defense as Bangor’s free safety. He ranks among the Rams’ top tacklers this fall and has six interceptions.
He also has proven valuable on special teams, averaging 16.2 yards on 12 punt returns, including a 52-yarder for a touchdown during Bangor’s 28-14 playoff win over Mt. Blue of Farmington.
“He just plays hard,” said Hackett. “Every play the kid plays hard. He looks to crush people, he never steps out of bounds. He wants to make a big play every play.”
That the 6-foot-6 Seccareccia has emerged as a high school football standout should not come as a surprise, because the sport has been a big part of his family life.
His dad, Bob Seccareccia, played offensive tackle at Syracuse and Rhode Island, and later went to a New England Patriots preseason camp.
His uncle, Ray Wood, played fullback at Maine, while older brother Rob plays at Southern Connecticut State University. Another brother, Steve, started at linebacker at Bangor as a senior in 2008.
“Playing football in my family is a big deal,” said Seccareccia. “All my uncles played, and they’re all great athletes. It was fun to watch my brothers play at the varsity level and see how intense it was, knowing that you have to match that intensity to make that big hit and make that big play to get to where you want to be.
“I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps a little bit.”
Seccareccia played mostly quarterback and linebacker while growing up in the Bangor Youth Football ranks, then quarterbacked the Bangor freshman team two years ago.
But with graduation taking a heavy toll on the varsity squad after the 2007 season, Seccareccia was one of several underclassmen to start last fall.
It was a valuable learning experience, but not one without frustration. The Rams qualified for the playoffs but finished 3-6.
“Coming out as a sophomore to play varsity football, you realize pretty quickly that you’ve got to step up your game,” said Seccareccia. “I learned that the hard way. Three-and-six wasn’t where we wanted to be, so we’ve worked hard ever since then to get to this championship level.”
Seccareccia played hockey for the Rams last winter, then returned his focus to offseason football workouts.
“As a team we were in the weight room every day,” he said. “After hockey season got over I started working out with the team, getting everyone motivated for the season.”
Seccareccia also focused on drills specific to refining his quarterbacking skills.
“I attended a few camps down in Massachusetts and learned a few things to work on, like getting a quicker release on my throws,” he said. “I think my footwork got better, too, and my three-step drop and my play-action passing.“
That work has paid off, according to his coach, and not just in bringing Bangor to the brink of its first state title since 2001.
“I think he’s more serious, he’s doing a great job in school, and I just think he’s in a great place right now,” said Hackett. “He has huge goals for himself, and this team’s accepted him as their leader both offensively and defensively.
“He’s not perfect, and we don’t expect him to be, but he plays hard all the time and he’s really turned into quite a player.”
Now just one game separates Seccareccia from his most immediate goal.
“Working in the offseason, I kept picturing myself in a state game,” he said. “That’s where my motivation has been, walking into that game and seeing that gold ball. I know it’s one of those feelings you really can’t understand until you’re there, but I kept visualizing it and I knew I just had to experience it.
“I’m really proud of everyone on this team. They’ve really stepped it up all season and during the offseason, and now we’re going to come out Saturday and give it everything we’ve got.”