TOPSHAM — By day, Greg Morse gets paid to sit behind a desk at Vision Payment Solutions in Portland. He’s a 37-year-old sales manager.

Saturday night he’ll bend his 6-foot-2, 310-pound body over a football on the turf at Fitzpatrick Stadium and go to work playing the game that still won’t release him. He’s the starting center for the Southern Maine Raging Bulls, and despite knees and ankles and muscles that protest their overuse, he wouldn’t be anywhere else.

The Raging Bulls, the last unbeaten team in the New England Football League, play the Connecticut Panthers (11-1) for the conference championship. This is semipro football, where the rewards have nothing to do with money or attention. It’s all about the sweet feeling of satisfaction.

“It’s being a big part of something, hanging out with guys who all want the same thing,” said Morse, a South Portland High graduate. “I’ve been chasing a championship for 17 years and we’re very close now. I can’t think of anything better.”

He turned away and rejoined Thursday night’s practice inside a sports dome normally used by youth soccer clubs.

The scent of sweat-infused football pads, jerseys and pants hung in the air. The offense and defense were in separate groups and everywhere you looked, there was a sense of purpose. Many of the players went home to their children, wives or girlfriends. Friday would be another day at their workplace.

“I ask for the four F’s,” said Ron-E Bates, 43, the head coach who grew up in Virginia. “Faith, Family, Finance and Football in that order. Take care of those by making the commitment and you’ll have a place on this team. If you can’t honor the commitment, we let you go and we’ve let some (NCAA Division I players) go.”

For many of their 17 years of existence, the Raging Bulls have been a secret, although lately crowds of 1,000 and more have supported the team. The roster is dotted with names of familiar high school and college players. Philip Warren, now 28, was the bruising running back for Brunswick High, sharing the backfield with the electric Ralph Mims.

Warren has a new running mate this year. John Wiechman, the Fitzpatrick Trophy winner from Bonny Eagle and Southern Connecticut State joined the Raging Bulls when the Maine Sabers disbanded after last season. Anthony Hicks, was a defensive back for Jack Cosgrove at the University of Maine. He’s 29 and a native of Newark, New Jersey, and chose to live in Biddeford. He also came over from the Sabers.

The quarterback, Alex Colon, lives in Woburn, Massachusetts, and travels the two hours or so for the midweek practice and game days. He and two Raging Bulls teammates pass the towns or cities of four or five other NEFL teams to reach Maine. Why? They’ve bought into the Raging Bulls’ work-and-play model.

Morse actually retired after last season, believing it was time to save his body. “I went to the first game of the season to wish the guys good luck and I actually got very emotional,” said Morse. “I missed them, I missed the game too much. I asked Ron-E if I could come back. I still have a little left.”

They’ve lived with the perception they’re a collection of over-the-hill athletes trying to reclaim past glories. In fact, the players make a commitment every season to each other to accomplish more.

Warren is married, has three children and owns a landscaping business. His brother, Charles, is a defensive lineman on the team. Ask Phillip why he still plays and he says nothing. His grin goes from ear-to-ear. “One day I’m not going to be able to play. That day isn’t here yet. Seven, eight years ago I was on some 0-8 teams when 13 guys showed up for a game. What matters is the camradarie and playing for a common purpose.”

Hicks said it one more way: “We play this game for the love of it. It’s our bond.”

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.