LEWISTON — Late in the second quarter of the Class C football championship game, Leavitt Area High quarterback Noah Carpenter capped an 18-yard run by bowling over an Oceanside tackler.

There’s no better metaphor for Leavitt’s season. Since practices began in August heat, anything in Leavitt’s way went down in a heap.

With a 71-12 rout of Oceanside on Saturday at Lewiston High’s Don Roux Field, Leavitt erased what little doubt might still have rattled around the fringes of Maine high school football. The Hornets are the best team in the state, and are firmly in the discussion for best high school football team in state history.

Leavitt, located in Turner, not only won the Class C title, it had decisive victories this season over the winner of Saturday’s Class A championship game and the runner-up in Class B.

“We’ve been so focused on what we’re doing, it’s really hard to think about it. When you got up this morning, you just felt like, if we can get this one today, we’re one of the best ever,” said Mike Hathaway, Leavitt’s head coach since 2002.

“People can argue about it, but this team has done things that no other team in Maine has ever done. So I couldn’t be more proud of them.”


It’s not just that the Hornets end the season undefeated. It’s that they went 11-0 by playing the toughest schedule a Class C team has ever played. Historically, Maine high school football teams have played a schedule against others in their enrollment class. That changed starting last year when, in an effort to create greater competitive balance, coaches began scheduling games against teams in other classes to find suitable opponents.

This fall, Leavitt took on the best programs in the state – some with enrollments more than twice its size. There was a 21-14 win over Oxford Hills, the 2022 Class A state champ, on Sept. 23. There was a 62-32 win at Lawrence, which  lost to Kennebunk, 40-20, in the Class B state final Saturday at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium. On Oct. 14, the Hornets went on the road to Saco to face Thornton Academy, rallying from an early 15-point deficit to earn a 35-21 win. On Saturday, Thornton won the Class A state title with a 24-14 win over Portland.

Leavitt’s accomplishments tear up the conventional wisdom argument that school size is the key to success.

Leavitt has 572 students, according to figures the Maine Principals’ Association uses to determine enrollment classes. That’s about a third of the size of Lewiston (enrollment 1,505), a team Leavitt beat 51-13 this season. Thornton Academy’s enrollment is 1,345. Oxford Hills has 1,055 students.

Those are three of the largest six schools in the state, and the Hornets beat each one.

“It’s the standard these guys have every day when they show up to the building. We practice, and we practice hard. We make them prepare, and they have to learn a lot,” Hathaway said. “Like I always say, I coach the three best players in Maine, and that’s Noah Carpenter, (lineman) Jace Negley and (wide receiver) Will Keach. They’ve made all the big plays in all the big games, and it was no different today.”



This year’s championship was Leavitt’s second straight and third in four seasons. Cony head football coach BL Lippert is a friend of Hathaway’s, and runs a summer football camp with the Leavitt coach. Now two decades into his coaching tenure, Hathaway’s dedication and love of football is in the program’s DNA, from the youth football leagues to the varsity, Lippert said.

“That continuity is huge,” Lippert said. “Their youth program is unbelievable. They reload every year. They probably know who their quarterback is going to be in 2029. … It’s set up to crank out great players.”

At the football camp Lippert runs with Hathaway, the high school players are asked to arrive at noon. The Leavitt players are there every day by 11 a.m., ready to go, Lippert said.

Carpenter said expanding on the winning tradition set by previous Leavitt players is important. He looked up to former Hornet greats like Hunter Hayes and Wyatt Hathaway, the coach’s son, and wanted to build on what they left.

“We’ve all been watching for a lot of years. We had role models we looked up to, and it feels nice we can fill those guys’ shoes. First team in this program to go back-to-back. It feels good,” Carpenter said after throwing three touchdown passes and running for another Saturday.


Over the years, there have been other strong teams in Class B or C that could’ve matched up to the best teams in Class A. Such as the 2008 Mountain Valley team that rolled through Class B and won the state final 52-7 over Morse. Or Winslow’s 1993 team that went undefeated and beat Wells 55-0 in the Class B state game. Those teams never had the chance to schedule games against the big guys as Leavitt did this year.

Jim Aylward coached Mountain Valley in 2008. As his team left Fitzpatrick Stadium with the Gold Ball, he watched Bonny Eagle take the field to warmup for the Class A final. He looked at the Scots and thought, they’re pretty big boys.

“Then I looked at our guys, and thought, we have pretty big boys, too,” Aylward said. “I’m proud of what (Leavitt’s) took on. They tried to play the best of the best. You’ve got to respect guys like that.”

The closest comparison to this Leavitt team is Marshwood, which won Class C in 1986, moved up to Class B and won the state title in 1988, then moved up to Class A and won that in 1989. Steve Knight was the standout player on those 1988 and 1989 teams, winning the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the top player in the state as a senior. Knight lives in Massachusetts now and hasn’t followed Leavitt. Still, he can relate.

“We always wanted to play the best, because we felt we were the best,” Knight said.

That’s a sentiment Hathaway and his team embrace.

“You’ve got a lot of guys that love football, and love each other. When you have that and you come to work every day, a lot of stuff can happen,” Hathaway said. “Their focus, them guys love winning. They really love it. There’s been some games we’ve been behind this year, it doesn’t phase them.”

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