DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — When Winslow faces Foxcroft Academy in Saturday afternoon’s Class C football state championship game, one of the Black Raiders’ primary challenges will be to keep the ball away from Ryan Rebar.
And that’s not easy, even though he’s likely to touch the football by design only a handful of times.
But consider some of his touches during Foxcroft’s recent three-game run to its first Eastern Maine title since 2009.
The 5-foot-10-inch, 160-pound senior wide receiver, cornerback and punt returner has caught a touchdown pass, returned a punt for a touchdown, recovered a teammate’s fumble and run for a touchdown and recorded interceptions in each of the Ponies’ playoff victories.
It’s a prime example of making the most of one’s opportunities.
“He’s a special type of athlete, there’s no question about it,” said Foxcroft coach Danny White, whose 10-1 Ponies will face 10-1 Winslow at 2:36 p.m. in the second game of the Super Saturday tripleheader at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium. Lawrence of Fairfield will play Thornton Academy of Saco for the Class A crown at 11:06 a.m., with the Class B final between Mt. Blue of Farmington and Marshwood of North Berwick at 6:06 p.m.
“Ryan can catch the ball, he can run with the ball, and in the open field he’s as dangerous as anyone in Eastern Maine, and I would dare to say in any class.”
What makes Rebar’s impact on games even more remarkable is that he’s still a relative novice at the sport. He didn’t play football until his sophomore year, after transferring to Foxcroft from neighboring Dexter Regional High School, where he played soccer as a freshman.
Rebar endured some growing pains as he learned the game during his first year with the Ponies, then he blossomed as a junior — earning All-LTC first-team honors at both wide receiver and defensive back.
“It didn’t take much time to realize he was devastating in the open field and that we needed to stretch him out and get him the ball in space,” White said. “I knew from the get-go he was going to be a great defensive-minded presence, and it’s been very evident that he’s been one of the great defensive backs in our league.”
Rebar had eight pass interceptions as a junior — including five in one game against Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield.
And with fewer teams daring to throw the ball his way this fall, Rebar still has six interceptions.
“My first year was definitely a work in progress, and I thank coach for having the faith in me to keep giving me chances to make plays,” Rebar said. “That definitely helped me my junior year and now. I started to get more comfortable my junior year, studying film and getting help from him on what I did wrong and what I did right.”
The speedy Rebar also has eight touchdown receptions in each of the last two years.
“Ryan has a unique skill set for his stature,” White said. “He has the ability to jump and get the ball and he has the ability to get open. You can’t just teach someone to run a pattern and get open, but he knows when to break on a ball and he has tremendous hands. He also has tremendous hand-to-eye [coordination]. He just has really good skills and instincts.
“It’s been a challenge for us to get him the ball as much as possible because he’s not a ballcarrier, although we try to sprinkle that in, but we need to try to utilize his strengths for the best for our team.”
Rebar’s athleticism may lead to a college baseball career, as he was a star pitcher and shortstop earlier this year when the Ponies won the Eastern Maine Class B baseball championship and advanced to that state final for the first time since 2002.
The righthander was named to the All-Penobscot Valley Conference first team after compiling an 8-1 pitching record — including an 11-strikeout, three-hit complete-game performance in the Ponies’ 10-2 victory over two-time defending state champion Waterville in the regional final.
“He’s so quiet that you don’t hear anything from him, but he’s just got a desire to succeed, he has that quiet confidence you admire as a coach,” White said.
“His athletic abilities will carry him on into the winter in basketball [he’s Foxcroft’s starting point guard] and then on into the spring as one of the best pitchers and one of the finer baseball players in Eastern Maine. But he’s a great kid, too, and that makes him all the more special.”