Recent economic travails have challenged growth in nearly every aspect of society, but competitive youth and high school football programs have defied the trend to scale back.
Schools such as Camden Hills of Rockport, Calais-Woodland, Mount View of Thorndike and Nokomis of Newport are relative newcomers to the Eastern Maine varsity scene, while Washington Academy of East Machias now fields a club team and Hermon is working toward joining the varsity ranks as soon as 2011.
And the latest community to catch the football bug is Ellsworth, which will field youth teams covering players in third through eighth grades this fall.
Plans call for three teams to play during the 2009 season: a third- and fourth-grade team, a fifth- and sixth-grade team, and a seventh- and eighth grade team.
As those players at those levels enter high school, if there is sufficient interest plans then call for the sport to be introduced at that level for the first time in about five decades — initially at the club level but ultimately at the varsity level, according to supporters of the program.
Interest is high, according to Duane Crawford of Lamoine, an assistant football coach at neighboring Mount Desert Island High School and a coach and member of the board of directors of the Acadian Football League on the island.
When a flyer was distributed at the local middle school, approximately 70 students expressed interest.
“It’s a great sport,” said Crawford. “People can see the value in the sport, and it’s a sport that a lot of people can play.”
Plans call for the Ellsworth teams to practice and play home games on a field at the Family Bible Church, across from Walmart.
Supporters of the Ellsworth football effort already have held two organizational meetings, with the next meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, in Room 116 of Ellsworth High School.
HA’s Smith Husson-bound
Shawn Smith’s favorite sport depends on the time of the year.
During the autumn, it’s football. During the spring, it’s baseball.
Ask him to make a choice between the two, and the Hampden Academy senior simply won’t.
And now he won’t have to Smith has decided attend Husson University in Bangor where he will continue to play both sports.
“I was thinking about a couple of different schools one way or the other,” said Smith, “but in the end I couldn’t leave one sport behind so Husson was the spot for me to do that.”
The pitcher-center fielder earned All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North first-team honors last spring by leading the Hampden baseball team to a 13-7 record and a berth in the Eastern Maine Class A championship game.
He followed that last summer by helping the Hampden American Legion team win its first Zone 1 championship, then advance to the state tournament where it went 1-2 to finish with a 16-12 record. Smith was named a second-team All-Zone 1 pitcher for his efforts.
A year earlier, he had been named a first-team All-Zone 1 outfielder for the Riverdogs, as well as a second-team All-KVAC Class A North choice during the high school season.
“He’s the type of kid, I could bat him one, I could bat him nine, I could bat him four, and he’s going to produce at every one of those levels,” said Hampden Academy baseball coach McLean Poulin. “I ride him on the hill, for sure, and when it comes to outfielders, in my opinion, he’s one of the best in the state. He can track down anything that’s hit out there.
“And to top it off, if you take the talent away, and there couldn’t be a better kid out there, either.”
Smith was the All-Pine Tree Conference Class B first-team quarterback and punter last fall for coach Harry McCluskey’s Hampden football team, and also was a standout defensive back who helped the Broncos earn an Eastern Maine Class B playoff berth last fall.
“I believe Shawn will be an outstanding quarterback, defensive back, punter, wherever they need him,” said Hampden football coach Harry McCluskey. “Shawn has very good speed and is an outstanding athlete and student who will do well at Husson.”
On offense, Smith completed 66 of 122 passes for 967 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while also rushing for 553 yards and five touchdowns on 63 carries. He also averaged 45.4 yards on 21 punts, including five punts inside the opponents’ 10-yard line, and he had 73 solo tackles, 22 assists and three intercep-tions.
For his work on the football field, Smith was named a Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist after the 2008 season.
Smith also was the All-PTC Class B first team punter as a junior.
“I’m happy for him to go to Husson and still be able to continue with both sports,” said Poulin, “because there’s no question he can excel at both of them.”