A celebration of longtime Eastern Maine high school basketball coach Carroll Conley Sr.’s 80th birthday will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Brownville Junction High School Alumni Hall located at 67 Railroad Ave. in Brownville Junction.

Conley’s life in basketball spans more than seven decades, beginning in the 1940s when he played at Washburn High School.

He went on to coach at Brownville Junction from the late 1950s through 1968, when the school was consolidated with Penquis Valley High School of Milo.

During his tenure at Brownville Junction, Conley’s teams won the 1959 Eastern Maine Class M (now Class C) title and the 1967 Class M state championship, with the Railroaders edging Old Orchard Beach 56-55 in that year’s state final played at Lewiston. His Brownville Junction teams also played in three other Eastern Maine championship games — all while playing up a class by enrollment.

Conley went on to become the first boys varsity basketball coach at Penquis, guiding the Patriots for their first six years after consolidation until he retired after the 1974 season.

Among the players he coached while at Brownville Junction High School were Bangor Daily News All-Maine honorees Jack Brown (1959) and Dennis Larson (1967), while those he coached at Penquis included current Penquis coach Tony Hamlin and 1973 first-team BDN All-Maine choice Wally Russell, both of whom went on to play at the University of Maine.

Conley went into the ministry during the 1980s, but returned to coaching in 1993 as both an assistant coach and head coach at Bangor Christian.

He retired from coaching after the 2010-2011 season, when he served as an assistant to then-Bangor Christian girls varsity coach Phil Robinson.

Conley’s 80th birthday party is open to the public, with cake and ice cream served and no RSVPs and no gifts.

Doug Cummings, another former player under Conley at Penquis, will be the master of ceremonies, and many former players, work associates and coaching colleagues are expected to attend and share stories.

High school basketball historian and longtime area coach Jamie Russell of LaGrange will present a statistical analysis of Conley’s career during the event, which will coincide with Brownville Junction High School’s open reunion weekend and the release of a new book about Conley’s years at the school authored by local historian Bill Sawtell.

Football rule changes announced

With preseason practices for the state’s high school football teams now under way, here are some of the rule changes they’ll be dealing with this fall, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

• If a player’s helmet comes completely off during a play and it is not due to a foul by the opponent, the player must leave the game for at least one down unless halftime or an overtime intermission occurs. One exception to that rule is if the player’s helmet coming off is directly attributable to a foul by an opponent. In that case the penalty is enforced but the player does not have to leave the game.

• The definition of a catch has been revised. A player must gain possession of the ball in flight and contact the ground inbounds after gaining control in order to make a legal catch. If an airborne player catches the ball but after contact by an opponent lands out of bounds, it is not a catch.

• Contact with an opponent’s hands above the waist that continues into the body below the waist is legal, but contact with an opponent’s hands below the waist that continues into the body below the waist is considered blocking below the waist.

• On free-kick situations, no member of the kicking team shall block an opponent until the legal kick has traveled 10 yards or the kicking team is eligible to recover a free kicked ball. If a member of the returning team initiates contact before the ball has traveled 10 yards, kicking team members may then block.

• Grasping an opponent’s tooth and mouth protector attached to the face mask is now a foul.

• No player or nonplayer shall grab the inside back or side collar of the shoulder pads or jersey of a runner and subsequently pull that opponent to the ground. Such a horse collar foul is enforced as a live ball foul.

Teams statewide are scheduled to hold their first preseason scrimmage next Monday, with exhibition games scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 24-25.

That’s followed by the start of regular-season play on Friday, Aug. 31, and Saturday, Sept. 1.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...