Nearly 10 years of hope and hard work will come to fruition Friday night when Hermon High School plays its first home varsity football game.
And while ultimate success on the gridiron won’t come easily — while the Hawks went 7-1 in their second season of subvarsity play a year ago, other new teams have learned varsity competition is played at an entirely different speed — the road to this milestone event has stemmed from a methodical, well-considered journey by those who have organized the sport in the area.
In 2003 and 2004 teams of high school- and middle school-age football players from Hermon and Carmel competed in the Moosehead Trail Football League, a grouping of rural football programs that also proved instrumental in the development of current varsity programs at Mount View of Thorndike and Nokomis of Newport.
By 2006 the Hermon Recreation Department began a flag football program for youths in grades 3 and 4 that fielded 42 players on four teams in its first season. A year later, tackle football for fifth- and sixth-graders was added, and in 2008 a tackle football program for seventh-and eighth-graders was established.
Hermon High School began playing a subvarsity schedule in 2009, with 700 fans showing up for the team’s first game that year.
The Hawks played a similar schedule last fall under a Maine Principals’ Association rule that requires prospective high school programs to play two years at a developmental level before seeking varsity status.
And at the same time Hermon worked to develop a youth football program to feed into a high school team, the community and school also collaborated to build a varsity-level physical plant for both football and soccer.
Spearheaded by Hermon athletic administrator Paul Soucy and supported by the local business community and other interested residents, the school is now home to Pottle Field — named after local benefactor and Pottle Transportation owner Barry Pottle — complete with lights, a grandstand, press box and concession stand.
Like many newer high school football programs in the state, the Hermon effort is privately funded, with everything from yard sales to a performance by Maine comedian Bob Marley helping to raise money in support of the team during its developmental period.
And finally it’s time for the Hawks to debut — varsity style — in front of the home folks.
One thing is certain about Friday’s game even before the opening kickoff — the winner will be accomplishing a first since Hermon’s opponent in the 7 p.m. LTC Class C matchup is another first-year varsity team, Washington Academy of East Machias.
The host Hawks are coming off an 18-8 loss at Dexter last Saturday. Hermon fell behind immediately when the Tigers’ Matthew Bartlett returned the game’s opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, but coach Ken Frederick’s Hawks took an 8-6 lead on a Kevin Gooley touchdown run before Dexter rallied for the hard-fought victory.
Washington Academy lost to Bucksport 57-12 in its opener last Friday night. Andrew Henderson scored the Raiders’ first touchdown on a 74-yard run in the second quarter, while senior fullback Zac Ragot added a fourth-quarter scoring run.