HEBRON — Isaiah Reynolds walked off the football practice field with the measured stride of someone carrying a weight on his very broad shoulders.

He is the 300-pound star tackle and Bonny Eagle High graduate who ends his football career Saturday night in the 25th playing of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. Reynolds and his teammates on the West team and their opponents in East uniforms will compete in a fundraiser for children in Shriners hospitals throughout the country.

He will play the game listening for cheers only his ears will hear. He’s the teenager who became a man too soon, burying his father and his father’s longtime girlfriend in January. Peter Reynolds and Cherri Demelle of Limington were passengers in a van driven by Isaiah’s younger brother, Zachary, when slush caused him to lose control of the van. Zachary was injured but survived.

Nearly three weeks earlier, Isaiah consoled his girlfriend, Rachael Tarbox, after her mother died on Christmas Eve.

Reynolds has felt the greatest joys of life and its harshest sorrows all in a brief 16 months. He celebrated a state wrestling championship in the winter of 2013 and a state football championship eight months later. In between, he and Tarbox welcomed a son to the world and named him Brody.

Then three people so close to Isaiah died. Months away from his high school graduation, he became the legal guardian to three younger siblings.

“He’s incredibly mature for his age and he had to grow up even more,” said Kevin Cooper, Bonny Eagle’s football coach. “Isaiah had a lot of respect in our locker room. He’s got a great moral base. He’s doing the right thing by his son. His teammates knew he was taking on that responsibility and helping out when his girlfriend’s mom was seriously ill.”

The Bonny Eagle community helped raise nearly $30,000 to pay for funeral and family bills. Reynolds got a summer job with Bisson Moving and Storage in Westbrook. He plans to attend Unity College this fall, and hopes to become a game warden.

With his size, strength and talent, Reynolds could have played football in college. Husson University in Bangor recruited him. Gabby Price, its football coach, sent him an email this week congratulating him again on being selected for the Shrine Lobster Bowl and wishing him good luck.

“I thought about playing football in college,” he said, “but after my dad died I stopped thinking about it.”


Reynolds has spent the week with dozens of new teammates and opponents at a training camp at Hebron Academy, not far from Streaked Mountain in western Maine. Isolated? You could hear a cat cross the road at night if not for all the window fans buzzing in dorm windows.

A bowling night and a beach trip to a nearby lake, among other activities, helped break up the practices for a group of Maine’s recently graduated high school football stars. New friends were made when players met in the dining hall and dorm rooms.

“I’m really excited to play one more game. This is my last game,” Reynolds said. “I know why we’re playing, to help the Shriners and the kids they help. This week has been fun for me.”

Fun can be a relative term. Reynolds has thrown himself into the week of practice knowing how much his father enjoyed watching him play. He hides his grief, but it’s there. A couple of his posts to his Facebook page are poignant. Isaiah misses his father, who was so visible at football games with his stars-and-stripes bandanna, cheering for Isaiah and brothers Zach and Dillon, who also played.

“(Peter Reynolds) was very supportive of his sons,” Cooper said. “He loved the fact that Isaiah was so successful. He was definitely a character. I never saw him without the bandanna. I didn’t know if he had hair or not.”

Peter Reynolds didn’t. He was a Massachusetts native who dropped out of high school and became a carpenter. He loved football, came to love high school wrestling and his exuberance was Isaiah’s reward. Demelle got caught up in the excitement, too.

A week after the fatal auto accident, the Southern Maine Athletic Association presented the Gerry Raymond Award for the league’s best lineman. Isaiah was the recipient and went to the awards dinner with some of his large, extended family. “My father would have wanted me to go,” he said.

He didn’t want to wrestle this winter but his coaches persuaded him to return to the team, saying his father would have wanted him to continue. Isaiah needed to lose weight to get down to the 285-pound class. He did eventually, just in time to wrestle in the regional tournament and qualify for the state tournament. He couldn’t defend his title, losing in the consolation finals and finishing fourth.

“It wasn’t the finish I wanted, but the coaches were right. My father knew I loved wrestling.”


At 300 pounds and standing about 6 feet tall, Reynolds looks like a man among boys. On the football field, he was the defensive tackle opponents tried to run away from but couldn’t. On offense, he helped give his quarterback the protection that buys another valuable second or two.

When no Bonny Eagle teammate stepped up to do the placekicking, Reynolds volunteered. “I was waiting for the skinny soccer kid to show up,” he said with a rare and wry grin. None did. Already a two-way player, Reynolds became the team’s placekicker. He reliably booted the Scots’ extra points, but his 33-yard field goal before halftime in the Class A championship game with Cheverus was his very first field goal attempt.

He might have felt a little nervousness as he lined up to take the kick. Cooper wasn’t worried. Reynolds may be a man of few words, but if the moment needs a leader he steps forward. When his three younger siblings – there’s a half-sister, Amanda – wondered who would take care of the household, Isaiah stepped forward again and became their legal guardian.

He’s 19 years old but has a man’s responsibilities and heartbreak. He’s part of Brody’s life, but his relationship with Tarbox is now uncertain. On their separate Facebook pages, each lists their status as single. Initially, Cooper says, the couple and their child had planned on being together at Unity.

Wednesday night, outside the West team’s dorm at Hebron Academy, Reynolds couldn’t say how many members of his extended family would be in the stands at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford on Saturday night. Maybe 20, he guessed. He especially wanted Brody to be there.

Even more, he might look up into the grandstand and see a stars-and-stripes bandanna. He might see more than one.