FAIRFIELD – The most remarkable interception of the season in Eastern Class A was the result of something that rarely happens.
Spencer Carey of Lawrence was beaten by a receiver.
“He might have gotten a step out of position, but he was able to get back there and make that grab,” Lawrence Coach John Hersom said. “That’s pretty impressive athletic ability.”
It was in the first minute of the fourth quarter of the regional semifinal between Lawrence and Messalonskee.
Trailing 27-0, Messalonskee went to a trick play it tried unsuccesfully in the first half — the halfback pass.
Corey McKenzie had a step on Carey and when Jake Dexter let the pass go, it had a chance for a big gain. As McKenzie prepared for the catch, Carey, who closed the distance, stuck his left hand in the air and
“Actually I got beat and was trying to recover from it. I just threw the hand up there and made a lucky play, I guess,” Carey said.
Carey followed his one-handed inteception with two interceptions against Cony in the regional final.
No matter what happens Saturday when Lawrence (11-0) plays Thornton Academy (10-1) in the Class A state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, one of the great careers in Lawrence football will end.
“He’s been a heck of a workhorse for us throughout his career. Even as a sophomore we put a lot on him,” Hersom said. “He’s really developed, we feel, into one of the top players in the state.”
A three-year starter on offense and defense, Carey has seen his role expand as he’s matured. As a safety, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Carey is responsible for run support, pass defense and the occasional blitz.
“The last couple of years, I’ve been trying to read my keys faster so I can come up to the line and make plays,” Carey said.
Carey finished the regular season with one interception and added three in the playoffs. Opponents simply looked for his No. 9, then threw the ball in the other direction.
“He’s as good a secondary player as I’ve seen in some time,” Cony Coach Robby Vachon said.
Both of Carey’s interceptions in the regional final set up touchdowns. The first, Carey picked off at the Cony 30 and returned to the 2. Two plays later, Josh Doolan scored.
Carey’s second came deep in Lawrence territory. A few plays later, Doolan went 47 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 10-point lead.
“After the second interception, we told Ben (Lucas, Cony’s quarterback) ‘Don’t go near 9. He’s dangerous,’ ” Vachon said. “(Carey) was the biggest factor in the game in the third quarter.”
Added Hersom: “He’s certainly a guy opponents have to recognize and base some of their game plan according to what he’s been doing for us. We’re moving him around quite a bit. We gain that advantage, where he’s an athletic kid that plays like a linebacker. He can really be there for run support.”
Carey has been Lawrence’s quarterback since the start of his sophomore year, except for a short stretch at the end of the 2011 season when a shoulder injury moved him to split end. Lawrence has been a run-heavy offense this season, and throwing has created some statistical anomalies.
On the surface, Carey’s completion percentage of 34 percent (18 of 53) suggests Lawrence hasn’t had success passing. But that’s not the case. Carey has 555 yards passing and seven touchdowns. His average completion goes for nearly 31 yards.
With a strong group of running backs, Carey and the Bulldogs have turned the passing game into a big-play offense. When Carey rolls out, defenses must make a quick decisio — come up to stop him or let him throw. Either choice has consequences.
“We’ve tried to develop him into a throwing threat as well as a running threat. We just felt like our run game was going to be something that would be a strength this year,” Hersom said. “He does those things well. He’s made some nice decisions in some important games and important situations, where he’s thrown the ball accurately.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. the last several weeks. Just focus on field position and move the chains, and our defense will secure the field position we want.”
The approach worked. The Bulldogs led the region in scoring, averaging close to 38 points per game.
“I just work on (throwing) every day. I know it’s not the first thing we go to, but as long as we improve and make sure we have it there in our back pocket in case we need it Our line does a great job when called upon,” Carey said. “I’m just working on my footwork, just trying to get my right steps. It all starts with the feet.”
Football is in Carey’s future. He’s considering the University of Maine and Holy Cross, and is open to playing any position.
“I just want to get out there and play,” Carey said.
That’s a decision that can wait. For now, Carey is preparing for his final game in a Lawrence uniform.