Gardiner Coach Pat Munzing runs Joey Dupont through a drill during a high school football combine Sunday at Alumni Field in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — With football off the table this fall, and with it the chances to prove himself in game competition, Maine Central Institute lineman Kahlden Briggs wondered if he was out of ways to impress college coaches.

And then he heard the news: A series of high school combines were being organized.

“When my dad first told me about it, I cannot explain how excited I was,” he said. “It feels good to be able to showcase skills out here. Certainly with the possibility of no season for any of us, it’s definitely scary. To come out here and show coaches what we’ve got, we hopefully get coaches’ eyes on us, and possibly a chance to play at the next level.”

Briggs and more than 20 other players were at Alumni Field in Augusta on Sunday morning for one of the recruiting combines sponsored by the Maine Football Coaches’ Association. Combines were also held Saturday in Portland and Sunday in Lewiston, with another scheduled for Oct. 11 at Old Town. The combines feature elements associated with the NFL draft combine – such as a 40-yard dash, shuttle drill and standing broad jump – with the goal of helping players who may not have a senior season get video and measurables to send to coaches.

“(We) felt that, because events like this didn’t happen pretty much all summer long, which they normally do, we needed to do something for our seniors, to get some certified times and video,” said Lewiston High assistant coach Skip Capone, a former Bates College assistant who helped organize the combines.

Capone said a good showing at the combine could help a player who was on the bubble with an interested school.

“It could seal the deal if a kid ran an amazing time or looks really good,” he said. “A particular coach looks at that and goes ‘Wow.’ I don’t think it’s the one thing that gets him over the top, they’ve got to look at video and meet the kid. There’s a lot more to it than that. But this certainly could jump some of our guys.”

And that’s why players turned out at 9 a.m. on a chilly autumn morning.

“We had our fall canceled, so we don’t have much,” said Cony running back and linebacker Jamal Cariglia. “This might be the last time I get to play football, so I just went all out. Hopefully a college team sees me, sees my film, sees that I can play and I get a chance.”

“It’s really nice to be out here and be able to get solid numbers and be able to have an opportunity to really showcase what you can do,” Gardiner lineman Quinton Martin said. “It’s not like this is some rinky-dink thing. College coaches are here. This is why we’re playing, why we love the game and why we want to keep playing the game.”

Participants got to play the role of a draft prospect, performing NFL drills and then having their speed, leaping ability and agility read back to them.

“It’s really fun,” Martin said. “You watch all these guys doing it on TV and then you go through it yourself, see how you stack up, that sort of thing. It is really cool. And it’s nice, when you have solid numbers, you can push yourself to do better than you did before.”

Dashes and jumps were only the first part of the morning, as players then broke into groups for position-specific drills. Linemen and linebackers worked on footwork, defensive backs practiced backpedaling and breaking on balls, and quarterbacks threw a variety of routes to receivers.

The drills were filmed, which Gardiner Coach Pat Munzing said would give college coaches an idea of the finer details about a player that go beyond 40 times and jump heights.

“That’s really what these drills are designed for,” he said. “Can somebody change direction? Do they have a good football stance? Can they keep their head up, their eyes? … Receivers, are they using their hands to catch the ball? Are they able to drive? How do they run routes?

“Those are all the things they’re really looking for. The times and that type of stuff, yeah, they’re measurable, but it’s those little things we’re all looking for. Especially the college coaches.”

There are no games this fall. But the coaches hope this will help.

“It shows the importance of football in the state of Maine,” Munzing said. “It’s great to see these kids take football so seriously, and how meaningful it is to them.”

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