BANGOR, Maine — A year ago at this time, Xavier Lewis was acclimating himself to a new football family at Lawrence High School in Fairfield.
This year he’s spending the first week of preseason practices re-acclimating himself to his original football family at Bangor High School.
Lewis moved to the Fairfield area with his mother last year, but the family has returned to the Bangor area, where he is looking forward to spending his senior year of high school.
“Just being around family, friends and graduating where I grew up, that’s the big thing,” said Lewis. “It’s finishing everything where I began it.”
Bangor head coach Mark Hackett said Lewis’ re-introduction to the Bangor system and players is a steady process.
“He will earn their respect, he will earn our respect and we will earn his respect. It’s a two-way street that way,” said Hackett.
Lewis was a jack-of-all trades last fall for a Lawrence football team that won its second straight Eastern Maine Class A championship before falling to Thornton Academy of Saco 37-23 in the state final.
Offensively, he took a few snaps at quarterback but was used mostly in a wingback type of role, while on defense he had two fumble recoveries, a pass interception and 17 tackles while working out of the secondary for coach John Hersom’s Bulldogs.
Lewis went on to play a key role last winter for the Lawrence basketball team, which advanced to the Eastern A final before falling to eventual state champion Hampden Academy 40-39 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by the Broncos’ Nick Gilpin.
“I definitely gained quite a bit of mental and physical toughness, for sure, and I think I’ll be able to bring a little bit of that back here,” he said. “I think a lot of it, honestly, had to do with being at Lawrence, being in that atmosphere and just being away and having my mind focused on all that.”
Lewis’ offensive role back with the Bangor football program will be one of leadership — he’s expected to be the Rams’ starting quarterback.
“Probably with me being the quarterback now I’m the guy that’s going to have to have that relaxed mind and stay calm,” said Lewis, who previously played quarterback for Bangor in middle school and as a high school freshman.
“That’s probably going to be the biggest issue, but other than that probably the biggest difference is playing different teams this year, but that’s just competition and I love competition.”
Bangor is scheduled to host Lawrence in a preseason game at Husson University next Friday night before embarking on a new-look regular-season schedule under the four-class system reinstituted by the Maine Principals’ Association this fall for the first time since 1986.
Bangor’s 2013 schedule begins with its Sept. 8 home opener against Edward Little of Auburn and also includes additional home games against three Portland schools, Deering, Portland and Cheverus, as well as road contests at Scarborough, Windham, Lewiston and Oxford Hills of South Paris.
“It’s just another season and we have to do what we have to do and that’s all we can worry about,” said Lewis, who also likely will play a prominent defensive role for the Rams.
Bangor has faced most of its 2013 opponents in seven-on-seven passing leagues during recent summers, and Lewis has the added experience of playing in Lawrence’s 2012 state final against Thornton Academy that he can share with his new teammates as an example of the challenges they face during the next two months.
“I can tell them if they don’t show up with their helmets strapped and ready to play and if they don’t want it, it’s going to be a long ride, that’s for sure,” he said.
High school football teams statewide participated Friday in full-contact practices with full pads for the first time this preseason.
Teams were limited to helmets and cleats for football gear during no-contact practices Monday and Tuesday, then added shoulder pads and practice jerseys for upper-body contact practices Wednesday and Thursday.
Teams will have a second day of full-contact practice Saturday before playing their first scrimmages against other teams late Monday afternoon or evening.
That’s followed by at least more three days of practice leading up to preseason exhibition games August 30 and 31.
The regular season starts the weekend of Sept. 6-7.