Cape Elizabeth running back Colin Campbell has missed time this season because of a broken thumb and a torn medial collateral ligament, but he played the entire game last week in the Class C South championship game victory over Leavitt. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

CAPE ELIZABETH — Colin Campbell has a cast on his right hand to protect a broken thumb. And his right knee has a torn medial collateral ligament.

Yet, there he was at a football practice earlier this week, preparing along with his teammates for Saturday, when Cape Elizabeth (9-1) plays Winslow (7-2) for the Class C football state championship at 6 p.m. at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Campbell, a senior running back and safety and captain, would not miss this game. The Capers will try to win their first football state championship.

“It really would mean the world,” said Campbell, an accomplished lacrosse player who has committed to play that sport at Bowdoin College. “Not only to this current program, but to the decades of players who have preceded us. There are so many families that are 15 years removed from having anyone play here that still are devoted to supporting us. This would mean the world to all of us to bring it home.”

Cape Elizabeth has played in two state championship games, losing in 2009 to Leavitt, 35-21, in the Class B final and in 2017 to Maine Central Institute, 30-13, in Class C.

Coach Sean Green, who took the program over in 2019 after Aaron Filieo went to South Portland, said winning a championship would not be just for the football program.

“This is an incredible community,” he said. “I’ve witnessed it first hand. The first time I ever came to Cape Elizabeth was when I interviewed here. And they welcomed me with open arms. It’s a tight-knit and close community and we receive great support. It would mean everything for us to deliver that first Gold Ball to this community.”

Cape Elizabeth Coach Sean Green: “The first time I ever came to Cape Elizabeth was when I interviewed here. And they welcomed me with open arms. It’s a tight-knit and close community and we receive great support. It would mean everything for us to deliver that first Gold Ball to this community.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

To achieve that, the Capers are going to have to defeat one of the most storied programs in the state. Between Class B and Class C, Winslow has won nine state championships (the last in Class C in 2015) and has played in 16 state championship games.

“When you talk about grit and physicality, those guys exemplify that,” Green said of Winslow.

And so does Campbell. When healthy, Green said he’s one of the best backs in the state. “He’s elusive, powerful with tremendous vision,” said Green.

Campbell was injured in practice during the fourth week of the season and missed the Capers’ final four regular-season games. He returned for the playoffs, playing a half against Westbrook and then a little more against Fryeburg Academy before playing the entire game last week in Cape’s 25-23 last-play win over previously unbeaten Leavitt.

“I was hurt the first time we played them,” Campbell said of Leavitt’s 39-27 win over the Capers on Oct. 28. “That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through, not being able to play. It took my heart out for a little while. But after the game, I went onto the field and kind of just soaked it in because I knew we’d be back up there come November, come playoff time.”

Green is not surprised Campbell is back.

“He’s the ultimate competitor and a phenomenal human being,” said Green. “He’s a captain and a kid who does everything you ask. He’s tremendous on the field, tremendous off the field. He’s a hell of a running back, a hell of a safety. I’m honored to be his coach.”

His teammates certainly appreciate his return.

“He brings energy,” said senior quarterback Caden McDuffie. “Right across the board for everyone.”

Cape Elizabeth quarterback Caden McDuffie has passed for 1,174 yards and 21 touchdowns (with only three interceptions) while rushing for a team-high 909 yards and 17 touchdowns. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Capers have an offense that is nearly impossible to stop, outgaining their opponents more than 2 to 1 – 3,453 yards to 1,551. McDuffie has passed for 1,174 yards and 21 touchdowns (with only three interceptions) and has rushed for a team-high 909 yards and 17 touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Nick Laughlin has caught 30 passes for 661 yards and 11 touchdowns, to go along with 517 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also returned five kicks for touchdowns.

Campbell, in his limited time, gained 467 yards and scored six touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Jack Gorman has 13 catches for 223 yards and five touchdowns.

McDuffie said he expected the Capers to be fast and smart this year. But the offensive line of senior tackles Gabe Harrison and Colin Smith, guards Brendan Guthrie and Jake Leiss and center Mike Foley – the latter three sophomores – has added a layer of physical play that elevated the offense.

“Besides having athletes all over the field, the offensive line is insane,” he said. “There’s always a hole and there’s always bodies getting tossed around. It’s easy to run by that.”

And now, said Laughlin, they have a chance to do something really special. Players from past Cape Elizabeth teams have reached out all week to let the team know they’re behind them.

“That means everything,” said Laughlin. “And winning a championship would mean everything.”

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