PORTLAND – Ever since he started playing football, Evan Jendrasko of Cheverus has been proving people wrong.

“People always told me I was too small to play. I’m 6-foot-2 in my mind,” said Jendrasko, a feisty fullback/noseguard for the Stags.

Jendrasko, who stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 175 pounds, wouldn’t get any arguments about his size or ability now. He’s shown his value on both sides of the ball.

“That just made me work harder,” Jendrasko said of people questioning his size. “Before my freshman year I had only played one year of football. My mother always made me play soccer because she was afraid her baby would get hurt.”

Jendrasko weighed 145 pounds when he entered Cheverus.

“I worked out every day in the weight room. I’ve gained 30 pounds and gotten a lot stronger. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be playing football for Cheverus,” he said.

Cheverus (11-0) will play Bangor (10-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium for the Class A state championship. The Stags’ only other appearance in the state final was 25 years ago when they routed Lewiston, 65-13.

Peter Jendrasko, an uncle, got into that game for the Stags.

“I want to be the second Jendrasko to touch the Gold Ball,” he said

Jendrasko, a co-captain, is one of the team’s top ball carriers. He’s a tough inside runner who complements the outside threats of halfback Spencer Cooke and quarterback Peter Gwilym.

As a nose guard, Jendrasko uses his quickness and strength to disrupt the other team’s running offense. Cheverus’ defense will contend with the biggest team it’s faced, and one of the biggest in the state.

“Evan is a high-energy guy who’s had an outstanding season on both sides of the ball,” said Coach John Wolfgram, who added that Jendrasko’s size is deceiving.

“He’s compact and very strong for a kid who weighs 175,” he said. “He has lower body strength.”

Jendrasko is the last of Richard and Debbie Jendrasko’s four children. His twin brothers, Richard and Jason, are nine years older, and his sister, Danielle Salvaggio, is 11 years older.

Danielle was the point guard when McAuley High came from the 10th seed in the West to reach the Class A state final in 2000.

Debbie Jendrasko said there will be approximately 40 family members at the game Saturday. Most of them will wear purple and gold T-shirts with the appropriate lettering like “Evan’s Mom, Evan’s Dad, Evan’s Sister, Evan’s brother and so on.

She’s also having Gold Rush towels made like the team had in 1985.

Jendrasko has had four uncles and a brother play football for Cheverus. There was never any question where he would go to high school.

He attended St. Joseph’s School in Portland band played soccer through the sixth grade. In seventh grade, he played football for a Portland team, but it was back to soccer his eighth-grade year at St. Joseph’s.

“He’s right,” said Debbie about not wanting her son to play football when he was young. “Evan was very active growing up. He played sports the second he could. We wanted his bones to grow before he played football. I finally caved in when one of his uncles persuaded me he should play.”

That uncle was Willie Joy, who played football for Cheverus and wore No. 33. Joy’s son, also named Willie, played for Deering and wore the same number.

That’s the reason Evan wears No. 33.

“I liked No. 3 but you can’t wear that number if you’re a lineman so it became No. 33 because of my uncle and cousin,” said Jendrasko.

“This season has been all I could hope for. I’ve always wanted to play for a state championship. Last year we were so close, it made us more determined this year. We set a goal in August.

“Last week was the best game I’ve ever been a part of, but I’ve put that in the back of my mind because this is the game that matters now. All I know about Bangor is that they’re big and physical. I’m sure the coaches will have a well-devised game plan. We’re physical and fast.”

There’s no doubt how important Jendrasko is to Cheverus.

“Evan does everything for us,” said Gwilym, his quarterback.

“He handles the ball 20 times a game and gets between 100 to 150 yards rushing. He’s one of the most determined people running the ball. He likes to joke and have a good time, but when it comes to game day, he’s all business.”

Jendrasko would like to play football in college, where he hopes to prove people wrong again.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]