Kennebunk senior quarterback Gray Compton throws a pass during a 35-0 win against Sanford on Oct. 7. “There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the season,” Compton says of his team, which will play for the Class B state championship on Saturday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

KENNEBUNK — The record tells one story. At 9-1, it suggests it’s been an easy season for the Kennebunk High football team, one in which the Rams jumped into first place in Class B South early, remained there the whole season, and now are headed to the state championship game for the third time in 10 years.

A closer look reveals another story. It’s been a season of answering questions for the Rams, from adjusting to a new coach to dealing with injuries and riding through a slump that seemed to be forming at the worst possible time.

“There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the season,” senior quarterback Gray Compton said.

It’s led to the ideal finish. The Rams are in the state championship game for the first time since 2016, and will play for their first title since 1991 when they take on North champion Lawrence in the Class B final Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

“Without a doubt, from the beginning of the year, we had one goal in mind, just to make it all the way,” senior lineman Brandon Lemire said. “There was never any question that we could do it. We just had to make it happen.”

If there was an unknown element to the start of the season, it came when Keith Noel took over for Joe Rafferty as head coach in March. Noel had spent three years gaining familiarity with the players as Kennebunk’s defensive coordinator, but stepping into the head job was an adjustment.


“You’re always looked to as the guy with the right words to say,” Noel said. “The practice plans, the game planning (were) things I had done in the past, but you always (need to) find the ways to push those buttons.”

It was a shift for the players as well. Rafferty had coached for 44 years, and if there was one program not used to change, it was Kennebunk’s.

“It was a very big adjustment for me. Raff, we were used to him, we were used to what our practices were going to look like,” senior lineman Gabe Jewett said. “Noel’s coaching style’s very aggressive, and every little detail has to be perfect. Raff was very stand-backish, and would go in when he needs to. Noel is always on us.”

Sanford defenders bring down Kennebunk’s Jonah Barstow, who rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns during the Rams’ 35-0 victory on Oct. 7. “At the end of the day,” Barstow says, “we’re the same old physical people that are going to come out and do our best.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Soon, the acclimation was complete. In Week 5, Kennebunk thumped Biddeford, 62-6. An even more impressive win came a week later when the Rams blanked Class A Sanford, 35-0, to improve to 6-0.

“By Week 5, everything clicked,” Jewett said. “Everything was in sync and where we wanted it to be. … I’m very happy with him coming in.”

Still, there were hurdles. Top running back Jonah Barstow missed the first three games because of a hamstring tear and a torn labrum in his shoulder. Two weeks later in the Sanford game, star senior Max Andrews, one of the state’s best receivers, hurt his knee on a touchdown catch and has missed the rest of the season.


Soon after, Kennebunk’s smooth season hit turbulence. The Rams lost to South Portland, 27-6, and finished the regular season by scraping past Marshwood, 41-40, nearly blowing a 22-point lead in the process.

“I think South Portland took a hit, we all got a little shocked,” Jewett said. “And then the rally with Marshwood, that was another (blow).”

The postseason didn’t provide much of a bounce back. Kennebunk trailed Westbrook late in the fourth quarter and needed a field goal with 13 seconds left to survive, 23-22.

“I thought our season was over,” Jewett said. “There were definitely some of those moments where I was in shock.”

At 6-0, Kennebunk looked dominant. Three weeks later, the Rams looked wobbly. The players, not wanting their season to fall short of the goal they set, decided to take the close calls as a lesson.

“It let us know that we’re not the only, baddest people in this division,” senior lineman Owen Bourque said. “It definitely was a wake-up call, for every single one of us.”


Last week, Kennebunk sealed a trip to the state final by beating Massabesic, 36-17, in the South championship game. For the players, it was a needed return to form.

“If we’re locked in, we can do amazing things,” Compton said. “This weekend, we finally snapped out of it and played to how we’d been playing. It got the swagger back.”

Barstow, a senior, said the team knew it could still play at a high level. But seeing it again was important to restore the confidence – especially with that goal from before the season now four quarters away from becoming a reality.

“We were kind of lost for a good week or two,” he said. “We tried to remember who we really were, and just get back to our roots. At the end of the day, we’re the same old physical people that are going to come out and do our best.”

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