KENNEBUNK — Justin Wiggins doesn’t know what would have happened had he left the football in the belly of fullback Patrick Saunders during Kennebunk’s season opener at Greely High.

Maybe the Rams would have gone on to win anyway, and kept on winning week after week, never losing, five of their 11 victories by fewer than seven points. Maybe they’d still go on to face unbeaten Brunswick in the Class B state championship game Friday night in Orono.

Wiggins, a senior and the returning starter at quarterback, will never know. On that first Friday night of September, he pulled the ball back from Saunders, took a few steps and pitched it to slotback Tripp Bush, the third option. Next thing Wiggins knew, he was wrapped up by a tackler.

“I landed with my facemask putting a really big bruise on my (right) biceps tendon,” Wiggins said. “It was severely inflamed for a very long time and I could not lift my arm into the throwing position.”

The Rams needed a new quarterback. Bush, a 138-pound sophomore – and no relation to that other Bush family from Kennebunkport – stepped behind center.

“It was nerve-racking at first,” said Bush, who saw only mop-up duty as a freshman last fall. “But after the first couple plays it kind of went away and it was just another game.”

Just another game for a kid who, as it turns out, has been running the triple option since he was 7. He learned it while tagging along with his dad, Joe, a longtime assistant coach at Massabesic High, to the Mustangs’ annual preseason camp at Bridgton Academy.

Tripp did quarterback drills alongside the high school players. He learned how to ride the fullback while watching the movements of a defensive lineman, and decide whether to complete the handoff or choose another option based on the actions of the defense.

About the same time his peers were thumbing through “Amelia Bedelia” and “Berenstain Bears,” Tripp Bush was pondering dive reads and pitch reads. The triple option became “sewn in my brain,” he said, “so it’s easy now.”

After relieving Wiggins, Bush guided the Rams on a seven-play touchdown drive just before halftime and another of 11 plays to open the third quarter. Kennebunk won, 12-0.

“I was pretty impressed with Tripp’s management of the game right from the get-go,” said Coach Joe Rafferty, now in his 39th season, who also coached Tripp’s father, a 1981 Kennebunk graduate.

“The next week Justin couldn’t play quarterback,” Rafferty said, “so there was no decision to be made. I think we were 3-0 before he got the OK from a doctor to begin throwing.”

Wiggins, who had been a receiver before switching to quarterback, found other ways to contribute, as a slot receiver and running back, and in the defensive secondary. After anticipating a senior year as keeper of the keys, it wasn’t easy to cede control to a sophomore. Wiggins did so with grace.

“It was very tough at first,” he admitted. “But I’m a competitor. I care about the final score at the end of games.”

“Justin is just a freaky good athlete,” said senior co-captain Andrew Bouchard, an offensive guard and defensive tackle. “You can put him anywhere on the field. To be so open-minded as to do everything he’s done shows how selfless he is.”

After the opening game, Kennebunk won comfortably against three teams that finished with losing records, then edged Mt. Ararat on a last-second field goal. The Rams overcame a halftime deficit on the road to knock off two-time defending state champ Marshwood and beat Biddeford by four points.

“It became obvious for me,” Rafferty said. “Don’t screw up a good thing.”

The Rams were 7-0. Not only was their quarterback a sophomore, so were three other starters: Dante DeLorenzo (tight end/middle linebacker), Zack Sullivan (cornerback) and Cam Lovejoy (outside linebacker).

“As eighth-graders our team went undefeated and won the (Southern Maine Youth Football League) championship,” said DeLorenzo. “And last year five freshmen made varsity.”

Kennebunk, which won its only Gold Ball in 1991, returned to the Class B state championship game twice. In 1999, the year many of the current seniors were born, the Rams lost to Belfast. In 2013 they saw a 16-point second-half lead evaporate in a 30-23 loss to Cony.

Bush was a seventh-grader, watching from the University of Maine stands as Cony quarterback Ben Lucas rallied his team to victory.

“We came off the field and he was sobbing,” said Joe Bush, then in his first year as a Kennebunk assistant coach after 24 with John Morin at Massabesic. “He was devastated that we lost.”

Father and son were both named after Joseph Francis Bush, who died in February at age 84 and may well be the angel looking over Kennebunk’s storybook season. Tripp is a nickname as the third to receive the name.

“You know what, Tripp?” Joe Bush said that night in Orono three years ago. “This will make it even sweeter when you and I do it together.”

On Friday night, the Rams get a second chance with their second option.