Top sports stories of 2022: No. 2 -- Leavitt earns redemption, recaptures Class C state championship

Dec. 29—The Leavitt football team was in full bloom as afternoon turned to evening on the third Saturday in November. The Hornets ran away with the Class C state title in a resounding win over Medomak Valley to cap off an undefeated season.

The roots of the title run, however, trace back to 2019. Leavitt won the Class C state title that year, too, and was set to return many key pieces from that squad in hopes of going back-to-back in 2020.

Then 2020 happened, and there was no tackle football season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hornets were the class of C South again in 2021, all the way up to the regional final on their home field. Then new rival Cape Elizabeth pulled off a 10-minute, game-ending drive and scored on the game's final play to win the C South crown — and, the following week, its school's first football state title.

The Leavitt players and coaches that returned for the 2022 season didn't forget about how 2021 ended. And it fueled them as they started preparing for this year.

Senior lineman/linebacker Beau Mayo said it took about a week for the Hornets to get over the regional final loss and get back in the weight room, thereby turning the page to this season. Any time a player wanted to put in some work in during the summer, there were teammates there to join him.

That Leavitt won the state championship this year wasn't much of a surprise, but that the Hornets did it while going undefeated — and never once trailing in any game — wasn't quite as expected. Longtime head coach Mike Hathaway took advantage of new scheduling procedures allowed and encouraged by the Maine Principals' Association and set up what Medomak valley coach Ryan Snell said was the toughest schedule in the state.

And, Snell noted, even before the Panthers faced the Hornets in the state final, Leavitt made it look easy.

The Hornets didn't face a team with a losing record, and mixed into their schedule along with the top teams in C South were Class A Lewiston, Class B finalist Portland and Class B North semifinalist Lawrence. They beat those three higher-class programs by a combined score of 129-43.

"Our guys do a good job of prepping up every week, and our coaches do a good job of putting together the game plan," Hathaway said after the state final. "We try to execute at a level that other people can't get to — that's what we say before every game."

For all their dominance, the Hornets did have one nail-biting finish — at home against Cape Elizabeth in Week 6, the week after Lawrence gave Leavitt a late push in what still was a 20-point win.

The Capers nearly pulled off the road victory again, but this time the Hornets hung on for a 21-20 victory, thanks to a late Sawyer Hathaway interception and Nick Morin knocking down a deep pass on the final play of the game.

Fast-forward five weeks later, and the two teams met again in the regional final. Stunningly, the Hornets cruised to a 43-0 victory. Mike Hathaway said it came after two of the Hornets' best weeks of practice of the season, including a bye week during the first round of the playoffs when Leavitt spent nearly every minute on an expected rematch with Cape Elizabeth.

And if the state's football fans didn't already know about Leavitt junior quarterback Noah Carpenter — who was selected as the Sun Journal's All-Region Football Player of the Year — then the regional final was his coming-out party. He factored into five of the touchdowns (three rushing, two passing) and combined for more than 400 yards on the ground and through the air.

He was great again in the state final, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for two more in the 46-6 victory. One of those was brought into the end zone by Mayo, the lineman, after catching a lateral from Sawyer Hathaway.

It was that kind of day for the Hornets as they celebrated both a championship and the end of a three-year journey back to the top of the mountain.