A potent running attack behind a determined offensive line, a quarterback and tight end connecting for several key plays, and a defense that took away many opponents’ chances with interceptions and stops tells the story of Boothbay Region High School’s championship football season of 2001.
These eventual champions were in the stands when BRHS last appeared in a state championship game four years earlier in 1998. That team, which also featured many of the same characteristics as the 2001 team – fine running, a good QB/TE combo and a stellar defense – went undefeated into the state game but lost to an undefeated Stearns team, 20-6.
With the national tragedy on everyone’s mind in the fall of 2001, the Seahawks began their charge for the gold ball by posting a 4-1 record by the time October rolled around. They beat Traip in Kittery, 42-8, and defeated Livermore Falls at home, 20-6. On Sept. 18, the Winthrop Ramblers, riding a winning streak and as the defending Class C champions, hosted and easily beat Boothbay, 43-24, behind the leadership of noted Maine high school quarterback Lee St. Hilaire.
Following the loss, Seahawks Coach Tim Rice told Boothbay Register reporter Keith Alley, “Some days you play your heart out and not get rewarded, but we have to keep working and eventually it will happen.” Rice must have either been a savant or the players listened as they had to travel to Winthrop one more time that season … and a reward was gained.
Boothbay followed the defeat with a win at home over Madison, 24-14, as running backs Alex Rand, Taylour Russell and Max Arsenault racked up 286 running yards combined.
The running game was even better in the Seahawks’ next win, 40-14, at Jay as the offensive line of Josh Ouellette, Michael Closson, Randy Vail, Sam Arrington, Jason Hardwick and tight ends Bill Hardwick and Tim Pinkham provided holes so the running backs could tally 469 yards on the ground.
Now 4-1, Boothbay trounced Old Orchard Beach at home, 56-27, despite trailing by a point at the half. The Seahawks scored 29 points in the third quarter and Arsenault scored three touchdowns.
The Lisbon Greyhounds came to Boothbay and handed the Seahawks their second loss, 25-22. Boothbay came back in the second half and nearly knocked off the undefeated visitors but a final pass play to Hardwick in the end zone was knocked away by defenders.
Not dwelling on another loss, Boothbay won on the road again, easily defeating 5-2 Oak Hill in Wales, 51-21. The win gave the Seahawks a 6-2 record and they settled in third place behind Winthrop and Lisbon. Boothbay finished the regular season at home against the 1-7 Rockland Tigers and posted a 49-14 win.
On to the playoffs
The road to the Class C championship had to first go through Lisbon and, if that was successful, it was on to Winthrop – two teams that had already beaten the Seahawks.
The Greyhounds had defeated Boothbay three straight games and the hosts held a 13-12 halftime lead. But in the second half, as Coach Rice pointed out following the game, the Seahawks’ defense stepped up and Boothbay came away with a 24-13 victory. Lisbon finished the season 8-2.
In a game for the ages, both sides of the Winthrop football field were filled with fans for the late afternoon contest and a celebration event was set up in the WHS gym as the Ramblers wanted to extend their 22-game winning streak and have another chance for a gold ball.
Coach Rice told Alley after the Lisbon game that, at Winthrop, “We can’t make key mistakes, we need to pressure the quarterback, tackle well and stay in our own game.”
It was the Ramblers who made the first key mistake – not recovering Boothbay’s squib kick to open the game. Seahawk Craig Barter recovered the ball and Boothbay marched 44 yards for the opening TD.
Boothbay went up 14-0 in the second quarter after a strange turn of events. Regular punter William Pratt was sent out of the game because he was bleeding. Back-up punter, quarterback Will Carroll, got pressured and had to pass instead of kicking the ball – but he found Bill Hardwick and the reception gave Boothbay a first down. At 9:25 of the second quarter, Hardwick scored on a 15-yard reception.
Another piece of the winning puzzle was provided by the defense. St. Hilaire, who had thrown only one interception all season, was picked three times by the Seahawks.
Boothbay went on to advance to the state championship with a hard-fought 20-12 win.
Boothbay 9-2 vs. Bucksport 10-1
The Class C championship on Nov. 17 was held at Alumni Field in Augusta. Bucksport’s only loss was to Belfast, a Class B opponent.
On Nov. 16, National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue visited the Seahawks during their final practice of the season, giving them a brief pep talk and congratulating them on their season.
As fans settled into the stands, an airplane towing a “Go Seahawks” banner flew over the field.
Some pressure may have been felt by the Seahawks early as they fell behind, 14-6, early in the second quarter, but at the half, Boothbay led 18-14.
As was the case most of the season, the running attack from Arsenault, Russell and Rand paved the way to another victory. Each one of the backs picked up over 100 yards on the ground, Arsenault scored four touchdowns, and the Seahawks won the first gold ball in the new playoff alignment, winning 41-21.
The championship was the first of two straight as the Seahawks added to the BRHS trophy case with a championship in 2002.
More on that next year!
Author’s note: I wish to thank Keith Alley for his fine reporting of this memorable season – and other Seahawks seasons – which provided the information for this article. Also, thanks to my former photography mate, John Edwards, for his work on this game and the many other memorable games he and I shot.