CAPE ELIZABETH — Ryan Weare’s family moved to Cape Elizabeth from Windham when he was entering the fifth grade. When he tried out for the middle school football team, he made an immediate impression.

“Everyone at school was scared of him,” said teammate Luc Houle. “He was big and he didn’t talk much, and he was weirdly good at football. … Instantly he became the best player on the team.”

Weare, now a senior, is still “weirdly good” at football.

He’s the lead running back and leading tackler for Cape Elizabeth, which will play Maine Central Institute for the Class C state championship at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Maine.

MCI (7-4) has been to a state championship game four consecutive years, winning the Class D title last season. The Capers (9-2) never have won a state championship.

“It means so much to me to have the opportunity to achieve something no one in this town has ever done,” said Weare. “And to do it with my teammates that I’ve been working hard with for so long means so much.”

Weare emerged as a driving force in Cape Elizabeth’s success this year. As a running back, he leads the team with 1,332 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. As a linebacker, he leads the team with 92 tackles.

“He’s a pretty straightforward kid,” said Coach Aaron Filieo. “He just grabs his lunch pail, puts on his hard hat and goes to work every day.”

Weare, 18, is a captain as well but doesn’t say a whole lot. He prefers to lead by his actions, which have been very loud lately. In Cape Elizabeth’s three playoff wins, he has rushed for 131 yards, 129 yards and 169 yards, scoring five touchdowns.

“You don’t have to be vocal to be a captain,” said Filieo. “Leading by example, to me, is as important as being vocal. For as good as he is, he’s the hardest-working kid on the field. It was the same with Ben Ekedahl last year. He was our hardest worker.

“It makes a huge difference when you’re trying to run a practice when you have a really good football player who probably doesn’t have to work as hard as other kids to be successful, but he still works as hard as everyone else.”

Weare is a mentor, often without realizing it. Junior Louis Daukas plays linebacker next to Weare and said he’s learned so much simply by watching Weare play.

“You’ve just got to read your keys on the line and be ready to hit some kids,” said Daukas. “He goes in and destroys blocks without any hesitation, and makes plays because of that.”

Daukas said he often was afraid of making the wrong read or that he would get out of position. “I just watched him and realized I had to commit to something. Most of the time (it) is going to work out,” said Daukas.

Assistant coach Mike McLaughlin, who works with Weare on both sides of the ball, said Weare reads plays as well as anyone he’s seen. McLaughlin played at Boston College and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos.

“As a linebacker he’s as good as it gets,” said McLaughlin. “I played two levels past high school and I couldn’t read plays like he can, not even close, when I was his age.”

Weare’s play at linebacker this year isn’t really surprising. He was an all-conference selection the last two years. And his father, Pete, played linebacker at New Hampshire.

But his play at running back has been eye-opening. The past few years Weare was a simple straight-ahead runner, looking to get what he could. This year he’s making cuts at the line and using his sneaky speed to break off big runs.

“This year he’s worked incredibly hard on his footwork and fast-twitch muscles,” said McLaughlin. “That’s what’s different, his foot speed is at a whole different level.”

“The last two years I just wasn’t as relaxed and confident as I am this year,” said Weare. “You kind of get tunnel vision when you’re not relaxed. You don’t see the field like you need to. You’ve got to have the vision to be able to cut back, and run north and south.”

He also plays special teams and while admitting to getting tired sometimes, Weare doesn’t want to come off the field. “I just want to help the team any way I can,” he said.

Weare competes in indoor track and plays baseball for the Capers. He’s also an avid fisherman. He likes to cast off the jetty at Pine Point or go to Sebago Lake. In the winter he loves ice fishing.

And while it may lack the adrenaline rush of running the ball or making a big hit, fishing helps ground him.

“It relaxes me,” said Weare. “It’s kind of serene, I guess.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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