SCARBOROUGH — Three years later, they still remember that feeling from their first high school pep rally, when Scarborough’s freshman class pulled off the preposterous feat of beating the seniors at the annual tug-of-war.

“It was definitely a weird moment,” said Anthony Griffin, now a senior himself. “We did not expect (to win) as freshmen.”

Griffin was the anchor for a team of four boys and four girls that included football teammates Ben Hughes, Owen Garrard and Alex Bryer, all of whom are critical components of a Red Storm squad that will take on Windham for the Class A state championship Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Their classmates, familiar with the Class of 2018’s athletic success, had a premonition that fall day of 2014 inside the school gymnasium.

“I feel like they knew because they were inching toward us before it even started,” said Griffin, who remembers being mobbed afterward. “They went crazy, jumped all over us.”

Griffin and his football teammates are hoping for another celebration after Saturday’s game against a Windham team that lost to Scarborough at home 66-7 earlier this season. If that happens, much of the credit will belong to a core group of seniors that has been playing together since elementary school.

“They’re really a good group of kids,” Coach Lance Johnson said of his seniors. “They just love playing the game. They love working out. They love lifting weights and running, and they love playing the game together. It’s a really tight group.”

Of the 13 Scarborough seniors, 10 rose through the town’s youth football program. The other three – Cody Dudley, Jaquan Seme and Drew Nichols, all of whom play wide receiver and defensive back – moved to Scarborough from South Portland.

“Between third and fourth grade is when most of us started,” said Hughes, a senior center, “so there’s definitely some chemistry there, just growing up together and playing backyard football, other sports, Little League. It’s been the same group of guys in our life the whole time.”

Hughes said in addition to talented athletes such as quarterback Zoltan Panyi and Fitzpatrick Trophy candidate Owen Garrard, who plays fullback and linebacker, the Class of 2018 has been notable for its dedication to the sport.

“We’ve always been in the weight room, gone to the summer sessions,” Hughes said. “Everyone’s committed. Football is their life, essentially, for the past four years, and you can see that paying off.”

Scarborough (10-1) is coming off a 49-7 victory in the Class A South final against Thornton Academy, which beat the Red Storm 32-28 in mid-September. In seven subsequent games, no opponent came within 20 points of Scarborough.

Panyi has thrown for 1,290 yards and 18 touchdowns, and has rushed for 509 yards and six scores. Garrard is the workhorse, with 1,119 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.

Sophomore Jarett Flaker (15.5) and Dudley (12.1) each average more than 10 yards per carry and have 16 touchdowns between them.

The leading receivers are seniors Connor Kelly and Reece Lagerquist, each with 14 catches. Between them they have 10 touchdowns.

Panyi said the offense is much more unpredictable this season than in previous years.

“Some games we run more, some games we pass more,” he said. “I remember when we were freshmen, it was just pass, pass, pass, pass. Our junior year we had Owen, me and a lot of good wide receivers. We started to do a balanced offense.”

Garrard is the leading tackler and one of the four two-way players. The others are Lagerquist (tight end and linebacker), Griffin (defensive end and left tackle) and Seme, a defensive back assigned to the opposing team’s best receiver.

Griffin has been playing with a fingertip-to-elbow cast on his right wrist since getting his hand mashed between two facemasks in the regular-season finale, a 35-14 victory that snapped Bonny Eagle’s 18-game winning streak and solidified the top regional seed for Scarborough.

“It’s not like we’re dependent on one person,” Griffin said. “Most teams, I feel like there’s star players. I don’t think there’s any star players on our team. I just think every player has a certain feature that helps us out. That’s what I like about our team. It’s just fun.”

It might be a challenge to take seriously a team you beat by 59 points earlier in the season, but the Scarborough seniors know only too well how an underdog at the end of its rope can emerge triumphant.

They proved that to themselves in a gripping battle when they were freshmen.

“When we’re out on the field, we just play for each other,” Garrard said. “We make sure that’s the focus every game.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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