Leyton Bickford, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior at Sanford High School, received a partial football scholarship from the University of New Hampshire and interest from other college football programs. Instead, he plans to play basketball for the University of Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

When Sanford High senior Leyton Bickford chose not to sign a national letter of intent for basketball in November it seemed a bit curious. Bickford had verbally committed to play for the University of Maine in the spring of his junior year. In an October interview with the Press Herald he reiterated his strong desire to play for the state school.

Why did Bickford decide to wait? Because the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder started to receive significant recruiting interest from other college coaches.

Football coaches, that is.

In Bickford, they saw the potential for a dominant tight end, with great range, good hands and the type of broad shouldered frame that could hold another 30-40 pounds of muscle. In his senior season at Sanford, Bickford had 28 catches for 408 yards and six touchdowns.

“Just the amount of (football) coaches that were saying they had an interest in me, I’m not going to not take a look at it, especially where it’s my future. It intrigued me a little bit,” Bickford said Monday.

Across the country on Wednesday, high school players will be signing national letters of intent to play college football.

Maine basketball fans – and Coach Richard Barron – can breathe easy. Bickford is sticking with basketball and “definitely going to Maine.”

But he did have legitimate options. The University of New Hampshire offered a partial football scholarship. Bickford also had planned, though unofficial (meaning unpaid), campus visits with coaches and players at Syracuse and Lehigh. Several Division II programs were very interested. According to Sanford football coach Mike Fallon, Assumption College was ready to make a significant offer but Bickford opted to cancel his official visit after coming to the realization that basketball was his future.

“Basketball is my number one passion,” Bickford said. “I feel I enjoy playing basketball. I’ll play all day.”

Bickford said he will spend his freshman year at UMaine as a redshirt, with the intention of being on campus for five years.

“I mean, I don’t mind it. I’d rather play right off the jump, but I do need some time to get ready physically and mentally for the switch from high school to college so I don’t think it would hurt me,” he said.

ANOTHER SANFORD player, senior two-way lineman Reese Boucher, is expected to sign a national letter of intent Wednesday afternoon to play football at Assumption College.

Boucher, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound lineman, was a Varsity Maine All-State selection at defensive line and was an offensive lineman semifinalist for the Gaziano Award.

As a dominant run stopper at nose guard, Boucher led the Spartans with 38 solo tackles (with 36 assists) and six sacks while facing constant double teams and drawing consistent praise from opposing coaches.

Boucher “received a significant athletic scholarship offer from Assumption College,” Fallon said. “We are very excited for Reese. He will be our third Assumption Greyhound. Alex Shain and Jed Scott also had very successful careers at Assumption.”

AROUND THE STATE: Cam Jordan of Leavitt Area High, a 6-4, 200-pound defensive end/tight end, announced his commitment to play for Division II Franklin Pierce in Rindge, New Hampshire. Jordan was a dominant force for the Class C champions, making 112 total tackles (37 for loss), blocking five kicks and contributing over 900 yards and nine touchdowns as a receiver and runner. A Varsity Maine All-State pick, Jordan was both a Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist and a Gaziano Award finalist.

Gaziano Offensive Lineman Award winner David Gross of Bucksport will sign with the University of Maine. A 6-foot-2, 315-pound interior lineman, Gross will be a preferred walk-on.

JARETT FLAKER of Scarborough, a two-time Varsity Maine All-State pick in football and a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, has also decided on his college athletic plans. Flaker has accepted a full scholarship offer to run track at George Mason University, a Division I program in Fairfax, Virginia, that competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Flaker is the reigning New England 200-meter champion outdoors and this winter he’s turned in the fastest times in Maine in the 55, 200, 300 and 400 meters.

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