As it prepares for another Class A football state championship game, Cheverus High knows it has an experienced player at fullback and middle linebacker.
Cody O’Brien, a senior, continues a recent trend of talented players at those positions.
O’Brien follows Brent Green, who graduated last spring. Green followed Evan Jendrasko, who followed Matt Ball. As a freshman, O’Brien, who lives in Wells, watched Jendrasko and wondered if he could measure up when his turn came.
“Evan was this short, stocky kid and kind of intimidating,” said O’Brien. “But he was a good role model. I’ve taken a little of what I learned watching him and Brent, and combined it with my own style. I’ve just tried to keep improving.”
Cheverus (10-0) and Bonny Eagle (9-1), who were Western Class A rivals until this season, will meet for the state title at 11:06 a.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
Cheverus was moved to Eastern Class A with Portland, Deering and Windham before the season in the Maine Principals’ Association’s statewide football realignment.
Cheverus, in the state final after a year’s absence, has won 44 of its last 45 games and championships in 2010 and 2011. That included a Class A record 34-game winning streak that was snapped in last year’s regional final against Thornton Academy.
Bonny Eagle, which missed the playoffs last season, has won all four of its state-final appearances (2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008). Combined, the schools have won six of the last nine titles.
“It’s kind of surreal preparing for a state championship game,” said O’Brien.
Losing last season, one game short of a third straight state final, was motivation heading into this year, said O’Brien.
“As seniors, it’s been our goal of returning to the state championship game. During the offseason we busted our tails in the weight room and later in practices to make it happen.”
Cheverus rallied from a 19-7 halftime deficit to beat Portland for the Eastern Maine title Satuday. O’Brien said it was an emotional game.
“Even though we had the best possible outcome, it was upsetting knowing it was my last game at (home),” he said.
Of the 16 seniors O’Brien likely has seen the most action as a two-way player over the last two years. He was on the kickoff team as a sophomore and became a two-way starter when Green suffered a knee injury early last season. O’Brien started at linebacker, then started playing fullback in place of Green.
O’Brien isn’t alone wondering whether he could play at the varsity level while a freshman at Cheverus. It’s a common feeling because the school has so many strong teams. But playing for a coach like John Wolfgram made the transition easier.
“Coach Wolfgram coaches you up to that level,” said O’Brien. “He teaches you the things you need to be successful. When you’re thrown into a game as a sophomore, that’s the only way you’re going to learn.”
O’Brien learned well.
He calls the defensive signals and as a fullback not only gets to carry the ball on some short-yardage situations, but is the lead blocker for Joe Fitzpatrick, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards in eight regular-season games, and provides protection for quarterback Ethan Jordan.
O’Brien, who prefers defense, hasn’t had as many long runs this year, and that’s fine with him.
“I haven’t had as much success running the ball as last year,” said O’Brien. “I’ve enjoyed blocking for Joe. He’s an amazing running back.”
O’Brien’s statistics are still impressive. He’s carried 92 times for 695 yards and 13 touchdowns. He scored two touchdowns in a game four times, including two in the 22-19 regional final victory against Portland. He’s also made 50 tackles.
“Cody is a very solid football player,” said Wolfgram. “He’s not spectacular in any phase of the game but he’s very solid in all phases of the game.”
Wolfgram said he doesn’t necessarily look for a lot of size in his fullbacks. What’s more important, he said, are for his fullbacks to be athletic with good skills.
“Our fullbacks have to be able to block, run and catch the ball. A one-dimensional player doesn’t really fit into our system. Cody has very good football awareness,” he said.
After his eighth-grade year in Wells, O’Brien decided to attend Cheverus. He said his grandfather, who attended a Jesuit high school in Massachusetts, recommended to his parents that his grandson also attend one.
While O’Brien said it was tough leaving his friends in Wells, he said the decision was the right one.
“On my shadow day (a visit to the school), I loved it. It’s been a great experience,” he said. “The things I’ve been exposed to I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. The academics are rigorous but the teachers won’t let you do poorly. I’ve learned time-management skills.”
O’Brien said he’s been “enjoying the ride” this season. Saturday’s game will likely be his last football game.
O’Brien may continue to play lacrosse in college while studying engineering.
“I’m looking at a few colleges,” he said.
O’Brien would love to end his career holding the Gold Ball as a senior two-way standout for Cheverus.
Just as Jendrasko did as a senior.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: