BANGOR — Joe Seccareccia returns to the Bangor High School football team this season not only as one of the top contenders for the Fitzpatrick Trophy symbolic of the state’s top senior player in the sport, but also as someone with a major piece of unfinished business.
The 6-foot-6 senior quarterback and free safety was left disappointed by the end of the 2009 season, when the Rams built leads of 14-0 and 21-7 in the Class A state final against Windham only to be unable to hold on as the Eagles rallied for a 35-21 victory.
“We try not to dwell on that state game, but it’s always in our minds,” said Seccareccia. “Even in our scrimmage game [against Edward Little] that was going through my mind, walking away empty handed.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t want to happen to you twice. We’ve got to get past it, and just focus on working hard to get back there again this season.”
Despite losing record-breaking running back Lonnie Hackett and the bulk of its experience along the line of scrimmage to graduation, Bangor is considered one of the preseason favorites in Eastern Maine Class A because of its depth at the skill positions and the presence of Seccareccia. He’s a third-year starter who is drawing recruiting interest from the likes of Boston College, the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire.
“He’s determined,” said 10th-year Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “At the end of the [state] game last year he turned to me and said ‘coach, we’ll get them next year.’ That’s just his mind-set.
“Sometimes he’s so competitive, he gets on everyone including himself, but as soon as he relaxes a little bit and lets people catch up to him, including the coaching staff, he’s all set. I don’t know that we have anyone more determined than Joe, and that’s pretty good to have in your quarterback.”
Seccareccia completed 83 of 151 passes for 1,260 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions during Bangor’s 11-1 campaign last fall, and he contributed 61 tackles and seven pass interceptions on defense.
“He’s tough and he’s aggressive,” said Hackett. “He could be a tailback, but he’s a quarterback and that works well in the shotgun. I know when we play teams who use the shotgun, if they have a quarterback who can’t run, it’s a big relief. When they can run, we have trouble.”
Seccareccia showed off his rushing ability in Bangor’s two biggest games last fall, gaining 93 yards during the Rams’ 24-7 win over Brunswick in the Eastern Maine final and following that up with 107 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the state championship game.
Seccareccia hopes to use his running ability this fall to add to a diverse offense that also will feature classmate Josiah Hartley moving from wideout to tailback.
“It’s hard to replace a back like Lonnie, he contributed a lot to the team and 200 yards a game and all that, but we have some talent that’s going to take his place,” Seccareccia said. “Probably not someone who is going to gain 2,000 yards, but we have some kids who can run the ball, and I’ll be running the ball as much as the coaches want me to and giving everything I’ve got.”
Seccareccia spent much of the off-season working on his passing game with a bevy of potential receiving threats including Hartley, Joe Stanevicz, Nick Sherwood, Sean Macintosh and tight end John Kelley.
“I’ve worked on my accuracy as much as I can and I feel the improvement a little bit,” he said. “I’ve got to thank the coaches for pushing me as far as I can go, and playing seven-on-seven really helped me with my vision and reading the defenses. It’s been a great off-season, and I feel I’ve gotten better.”
Seccareccia was one of more than a dozen Rams who participated in a seven-on-seven league in southern Maine during the summer, working out against the likes of the top teams in Western Maine Class A.
“We got to see teams like Bonny Eagle and Windham that we don’t get to see during the regular season and we don’t see until the end of the year,” Seccareccia said. “It was a great experience, the atmosphere was great. Everyone’s out there to get better, and that’s what happened. That seven-on-seven has made us better.”
And while playing quarterback inherently requires a level of leadership ability, that’s been another area of focus for Seccareccia, one of this year’s four Bangor captains.
Those skills got an immediate test during the first week of preseason practices. Two of the other captains, Dylan Morris and Hartley, missed several practices while participating in the Senior League World Series, and the fourth captain, Josh Bishop, was nursing an eye injury.
Seccareccia was the only captain left.
“Joe’s a great player, but leadership skills are something he’d admit he needs to work on,” said Hackett. “But he did a great job when two of the captains are baseball players and Josh was out, too.
“Joe led great, we’ll give him an ‘A’ for the week.”
Seccareccia also understands the importance of his leadership role through his experiences as a starter for the last two seasons.
“I’ve been on a losing team and a winning team,” he said. “My sophomore year we weren’t the best team out there, but that’s when I learned how much the leadership really counts.
“The leadership last year was phenomenal, that’s how we got to the state game, and this year we have some great leaders stepping up and I’m trying my best to lead these guys to win every game possible.”