HEBRON — Andrew Libby’s senior football season ended in the opening game last fall when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on a kickoff return.
Libby, the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Player of the Year as junior when he led Thornton Academy to the Class A state title, wouldn’t play in another high school football game.
Or would he?
“After I got injured I knew that was true, but after I started rehabilitating my knee, I made it my goal to play in the Lobster Bowl,” he said Tuesday. “My rehab went very well. I had surgery on Sept. 25, my birthday, and I was running by Christmas.”
This week, Libby and the best of the state’s just-graduated seniors are practicing at Hebron Academy to prepare for the 25th Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. The annual all-star football game will be played 6 p.m. Saturday at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field.
Libby, a 215-pound running back, is excited to play again.
“I can’t wait to get going,” he said during the Lobster Bowl media day. “My knee is 100 percent.”
In just over two weeks, Libby will report for football practice at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“This is a good first step in returning to football,” he said.
Cody Lynn, who will start at safety for the West squad, was a teammate of Libby’s at Thornton.
“When Andrew was injured, we felt we got robbed,” said Lynn. “We missed his play and his leadership. He’s been looking great in practice (this week).”
West Coach Joe Rafferty of Kennebunk coached against Libby in 2011 and 2012 when the Rams played in the SMAA.
“I know of Andrew’s talents quite well,” said Rafferty, whose team finished as Class B state runner-up last year.
But to be coaching him is something different and a real pleasure, said the veteran coach.
“Andrew is going at full speed in practice,” said Rafferty, who is serving as the West coach for the second time. “I’ve been impressed with his speed and quickness. I guess the big question is how will he do in the game. If I could, I would take him on any team I coached.”
Besides running the ball, Libby will return kicks and maybe some punts. At Thornton Academy, Coach Kevin Kezal used him at running back and in the secondary. Libby also took the snap in the wildcat offense, returned kickoffs, punts and punted. Heading into his senior year, he was the favorite to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy, given to the state’s best senior football player.
Libby said he will be at fullback at UMass, playing for new coach Mark Whipple, who begins his second stint as head coach for the Minutemen.
“I’m the third fullback starting out, but my goal is to play as a freshman,” he said.
And, don’t ever question Libby’s resolve. He’s one of the most focused and determined players around.
Rafferty noticed something else about Libby as a leader.
“Andrew really connects with people,” he said. “His teammates look up to him.”