HAMPDEN, Maine — Casey Sudbeck has devoted most of his athletic attention during his high school years to baseball.
He’s starred as a pitcher and outfielder for Hampden Academy for three years and last summer played a key role as the Bronco-Hermon all-stars participated in what turned out to be the final Senior League World Series played at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
But Sudbeck regained the urge to play football last summer for the first time since a brief flirtation as a high school freshman, and his presence as a first-year starter at quarterback this fall has been a key factor in Hampden Academy’s rebuilding effort under first-year head coach Fred Lower.
Sudbeck, who primarily played running back at the youth and middle-school levels, has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the Broncos’ first four games and also passed for more than 100 yards in three games.
“It was different for me at first because I hadn’t played in awhile and when I did I was primarily a running back, so it was all coming from a new perspective,” said Sudbeck, who guided Hampden to a 28-22 win at Mt. Blue of Farmington last weekend.
“But it’s gone pretty good, I think. We’re 2-2 right now and I think we have some very winnable games coming up. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job running and throwing the ball so far.”
As much as Sudbeck’s athleticism prompted Lower to play him at quarterback, it’s been his leadership that has been equally important in his development at the position as well as in the growth of the team.
“I knew we weren’t going to just line up and pound teams,” said Lower, Hampden’s third head coach in the last three years. “I knew we had to be in the spread and be able to run the ball and I thought with his athletic ability and his quiet competitiveness he’d be a good fit at quarterback.
“He’s very, very competitive, he’s fearless and athletic, but he’s also got this calmness about him. There are other guys who get the team fired up, [but] he has that calming effect that the kids really rally behind.”
Hampden, which scored only three victories over the previous two seasons, has the chance to match that win total at home Friday night against a traditional Pine Tree Conference power, Lawrence of Fairfield.
Lawrence also is 2-2 after a Week 4 win over Cony of Augusta, so playoff seeding implications are in play as the Class B North schedule enters its second half.
“They’re pretty fundamental,” said Lower of the Bulldogs. “They’ve got three quick backs and can get to the edge in a hurry, and they’ve got a quarterback with a very good arm. With Mt. Blue we were able to load the box because we weren’t sure they would be able to throw consistently on us. We’re not going to be able to do that against Lawrence.”
“They always play great defense, too, so we’re going to have to really focus on being fundamental.”
Among other Week 5 games:
South Portland Red Riots (1-3) at Bangor Rams (0-4), 7 p.m. Friday: Bangor scored an overtime victory over the Red Riots in last year’s meeting, and each badly needs a win to retain any Class A playoff aspirations.
Brewer Witches (4-0) vs. Cony Rams (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Augusta: The unbeaten Witches, fresh from a wild 54-41 victory over Skowhegan, must be careful not to look past the Rams with a showdown at two-time defending Class B North champion Brunswick just a week away.
Hermon Hawks (2-2) vs. Foxcroft Academy Ponies (2-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Dover-Foxcroft: A Class C North crossroads game finds Hermon seeking to rebound from two straight losses and Foxcroft looking to extend its winning streak to three games.
Belfast Lions (1-3) at Old Town Coyotes (2-2), 7 p.m, Friday: Similar playoff implications shadow this contest, with both teams needing a win to enhance their chances for a top-six finish in Class C North. This is the BDN Game of the Week sponsored by Quirk Auto Group, and may be watched at bangordailynews.com/gameoftheweek starting with the pregame show at about 6:45 p.m.
Orono Red Riots (4-0) vs. Mattanawcook Academy Lynx (1-3), 7 p.m. Friday at Lincoln: Orono has averaged more than 40 points a game but must continue to focus week to week with back-to-back battles looming against fellow Class D North unbeatens Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield and Dexter in Weeks 7 and 8.
Ellsworth/Sumner Eagles (1-3) at Dexter Tigers (4-0), 1 p.m. Saturday: A Dexter defense that has yielded just one touchdown in each of its first four games tries to stay on track against an Ellsworth/Sumner team coming off its first victory. The Tigers must be careful not to think ahead to next Saturday’s showdown with two-time defending LTC champion MCI.
Oceanside Mariners (3-1) at Winslow Black Raiders (3-1), 1 p.m. Saturday: Coach Wes Drinkwater’s Oceanside club is riding high with three straight wins but must withstand what should be an emotional Winslow team coming off its first loss since the 2013 Class C state final.