Windham’s Nick Garrison has eight touchdown receptions this season, none bigger than the one he caught in double overtime last weekend to lift the Eagles to the Class B state championship game. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

When asked what he’s doing to put himself in position to make big play after big play for the Windham High football team, Nick Garrison chuckled and shrugged. He’s a football player. Isn’t that what he’s supposed to be doing?

“It’s overall just a great team effort,” said Garrison, batting down any credit.

He’s right, but Windham is playing on the final day of the season, and Garrison, a senior tight end and outside linebacker, is a big reason why.

As the Eagles (9-0) prepare to take on Marshwood (8-3) in the Class B state championship game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium, you could watch a Garrison highlight reel to get a sense as to how and why Windham got there.

There was his touchdown catch in the second overtime to help Windham defeat Lawrence 42-35 in the regional championship game last weekend. There was the onside kick he returned for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter of the same game. There was his sack on the final play of the game the previous week, a 7-6 semifinal win over Skowhegan. And there was the fumble recovery inside his own 10-yard line a few minutes earlier, preserving the Eagles’ one-point lead.

That’s a career of big plays for many players. Garrison made them in back-to-back playoff games.

“He can do a lot of things for us. He can block. He can catch the ball. He’s a really special player. He’s has awesome ball skills, but he wants to get dirty too, you know?” said Windham quarterback Will Ledbetter.

With so many big plays to choose from, Ledbetter didn’t hesitate to name Garrison’s best one. It had to be the touchdown catch in the second overtime of Saturday’s win over Lawrence. It was a fade to the back right corner of the end zone. Garrison went up and got it over the Bulldogs defender.

“He went up to really high point that ball. Really showcasing how athletic he is,” Ledbetter said.

Garrison has caught eight of Ledbetter’s 19 touchdown passes this season. Garrison’s 581 receiving yards leads the Eagles, and his 31 receptions are second on the team to Max Arbour’s 33. As an outside linebacker who sometimes shifts to defensive end, depending on the offensive formation Windham faces, Garrison is a leader of a unit that has allowed nine points per game, the lowest average for points allowed in Class B.

“I’m making my decision before the play begins. As long as you’re going hard throughout the whole entire play, I’m just trying to put myself in position to be where the ball is to make that play,” Garrison said.

While many players would say they prefer playing defense, Garrison’s favorite is offense.

“I know most guys would say defense. I like making plays in the end zone,” he said.

Windham’s Nick Garrison shakes off a blocker during practice Wednesday at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium, site of the Class B state championship game on Saturday. The senior is an outside linebacker and a tight end. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Coming into this season, Windham Coach Matt Perkins knew the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Garrison was a strong athlete. Garrison was one of the many sophomores who saw extensive varsity playing time in 2019 as the young Eagles went 4-4 in their first season in Class B. After a 2020 with no tackle football in Maine because of the pandemic, Perkins wondered in August if there would be any rust. His concerns quickly dissipated.

“They didn’t have the year of development last year. All of a sudden you’re a sophomore to a senior, and there’s no lead up. As the year’s gone, (Garrison’s) really figured out his role and done some incredible things for us,” Perkins said. “He’s a very smart football player. He does a really good job soaking things in in practice, understanding what we’re doing and what the other team is (doing).”

Along with his football IQ, Perkins sees Garrison’s mental approach as a key to his success. Garrison is laid back, Perkins said, and doesn’t get stressed out in the big moments. That was evident early in the fourth quarter of the regional title game. Lawrence had just scored to take a 28-21 lead, and the Bulldogs tried to catch Windham off balance with an onside kick. The ball found Garrison, and he raced to the end zone for the tying score, pulling back momentum before Lawrence could get a firm grip.

“It bounced right up to my hands. I was already in a full sprint and I went through there and I only saw the kicker. I knew I had to get on my horse and get to the end zone,” Garrison said.

Although the 2020 season was just 7-on-7 flag football, Garrison said the work he and his teammates put in is showing up on the field now.

“Throughout our junior year, none of really took a break. During the summer, during the fall, we were all at the field trying to get better. So that really prepared us for where we are now,” Garrison said.

Windham’s last state championship came in 2009, in Class A. The Eagles were Class A runners-up in 2014 and 2017. The support around town has been unconditional, Garrison said, and he and his teammates would like to reward that support with a Gold Ball.

“He’s always pushing us in practice, really calm all the time. He’s able to get us going, and a guy we can rely on to get stuff done right,” Ledbetter said.


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.

filed under: