Connor Caverly, a junior at Marshwood High School in South Berwick, has verbally committed to the University of Maine to play baseball. On Saturday, he'll line up at defensive end as the Hawks take on Brunswick for the Class B state football championship. Credit: Mike Zhe | Portsmouth Herald

Connor Caverly has had to bide his time on the Marshwood High School football team. But his time is now.

Credit: Mike Zhe | Portsmouth Herald

As a sophomore on last year’s state title team, he was the backup quarterback and a linebacker admittedly “at the bottom of the depth chart.” But as a junior, he’s been a big presence as a starting defensive end as he prepares to take over the reins at quarterback next season.

When the Hawks (10-1) face Brunswick (8-3) in the Class B championship game on Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, the defensive line should have a starring role against an opponent that likes to run the ball.

And that includes Caverly.

“Stop the run,” he said. “They’re going to come at us and they’re going to play hard. We just need to play harder than they do.”

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The warm feeling that followed last week’s nail-biting, 14-13 win over Kennebunk in the regional final has been replaced by some frigid practices on the turf at Portsmouth High School this week.

After holding Kennebunk to 241 yards of total offense, and making eight tackles for a loss of yardage, the Hawks’ front four that also includes big Drew Gregor, Michael Cruz and Adam Doyon will now try to stifle the North champs in similar fashion.

“We knew we were going to have a good group up front,” said coach Alex Rotsko. “We expected it to be one of our strong points and it has been.”

With four starters back from last year’s team, and players like Caverly, Paul Spezia and Owen Whisnant pushing for playing time, the line got retooled when defensive tackle Ian Dures went down with an injury. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Gregor moved from end to tackle, and Caverly slid into a starting role at end.

“We looked at it and said, ‘Who are our top four players?’” said Rotsko. “We decided one of them was going to move to tackle. Drew was the one who fit that (role).”

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Caverly’s four quarterback sacks are second on the team to Doyon’s seven. One of them came on the first series after halftime in Saturday’s regional final.

“He’s been playing very well,” said Rotsko. “He’s made it a stronger unit.”

His number (No. 11) may tease his future at quarterback, but his size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) has helped him make a big impact on the defensive side of the ball.

“He’s been a great part of this D-line,” said Gregor. “He has a tremendous offseason workout program with his dad and the rest of his team, and he’s put a lot towards our success. With his strength and ability, he’s going to be a fantastic defensive lineman next year and a big contributor on the offensive side.”

A quarterback like his older brother, Matt, who is now a sophomore at Cornell, Caverly has been tucked behind two-year starter Tommy Springer, the strong-armed senior who’s aiming to close out his high school career with a second straight state title.

In practice, he spends most of the offensive reps working out at tight end, a position new to him this season.

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“Tommy is a great quarterback,” Caverly said. “He’s going to play. I wanted to get on the field somehow and tight end was the way to go.”

“Great player,” said Springer. “Very good arm, a strong arm. I think he’ll do a great job leading the team next year, no doubt about it.”

Beyond Marshwood, Caverly’s athletic future will be in baseball. A power-hitting first baseman/outfielder who can also pitch, he is verbally committed to the University of Maine.

He is the youngest son of John, the former Marshwood football coach who is the school district’s chief operating officer, and Renee, the former high school softball coach. He was 3 when his father began the first of his two stints coaching Marshwood in 2004, and sports were as much a part of his life growing up as eating.

“I’ve always just loved football,” he said. “My dad always talks about, ‘Be the best player you can be.’ I try to make him proud and just play as hard as I can.”

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