YORK, Maine — Forty-one autumns ago, Cullen McCarty’s dad was Maine’s king of the gridiron, leading Bangor High School to the Class A football state championship and winning the 1973 Fitzpatrick Trophy symbolic of being the state’s top senior playing the sport.
As for approaching Peter McCarty’s individual exploits as a fullback and defensive end for the Rams, particularly earning any Fitzy consideration, that will have to wait — Cullen is just a junior at York High School.
But the 5-foot-11, 195-pound tailback and linebacker has been pivotal to the Wildcats’ success this fall and now is generating his own measure of statewide acclaim thanks to more than 1,200 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in just six games for coach Randy Small’s club.
“Team-wise, it’s going very well, we’re just clicking on all cylinders,” said McCarty, whose team will take a 6-0 record into Friday night’s Western Maine Class B home game against Fryeburg Academy.
“Individual-wise, I don’t focus on the yards that much because I can’t do that without my line blocking and the fullback and wings blocking.”
McCarty, who started at fullback for a 2013 York team that reached the Western Maine semifinals, has flourished at tailback this year, rushing for more than 200 yards in each of York’s last four victories.
“To get him on the field last year I put him at fullback because I thought it would help him become more physical, he’d learn how to block, and we run our fullback a lot in our offense,” said Small. “I think fullback really helped him with the physicality part of running because now he runs like that at tailback.
“The other thing with Cullen is his offseason work ethic is incredible. He’s the type of kid who’s at the track at 6 o’clock in the morning working on his speed, then he goes to the weight room and works on his strength — and this is year-round for him.”
McCarty’s running style blends strength and speed — he’s also a sprinter on the York track team in the spring after playing power forward on the Wildcats’ basketball team under Small during the winter.
“He’s very deceptive at tailback,” said Small. “He doesn’t look like he’s overly fast but he glides. He gets next to a defensive back and then he outruns them even though it doesn’t look like he’s doing it.”
There’s also a cerebral element to McCarty’s play that may be particularly evident on defense, where he plays middle linebacker after starting at safety as a sophomore.
“We give the kids an eight- to 17-page packet on the team we’re playing, and I have not had a kid who studies the scout packet like he does,” said Small. “When an [opposing] team comes out, he can tell you what they’re going to run before they run it.
“He’s a very, very intelligent kid and I think that just comes from his love for the game.”
For McCarty, such game preparation is like taking another class.
“The coaches do a great job with the scouting reports so I know where to go and what to expect,” said McCarty, whose brother Jackson plays offensive guard and linebacker for the York freshman football team. “You’ve got to be prepared. You can’t go into a game just looking at it once. You’ve got to look at it at least once every day, if not more.”
Two scouting reports McCarty has had to base solely on personal research and conversations are those of his father and uncle Paul McCarty.
Peter McCarty went on to be an All-Yankee Conference linebacker and co-captain at the University of Massachusetts before entering the coaching ranks — he’s currently the defensive line coach at the nearby University of New Hampshire.
Paul McCarty also starred at Bangor High School, where he scored a state-record 152 points as a junior running back for the Rams before going on to compete at the Division I collegiate level.
“There’s no video,” said Cullen. “I know my dad won the Fitzpatrick Award and played at UMass and my uncle went to play at Boston College and I think had the state scoring record when he was in high school. They were the best players in the state when they were around.”
Like father and uncle, Cullen McCarty has college football aspirations.
“Definitely,” he said. “I want to play at a high level, the highest level I can get to.”
But for now there’s York’s pursuit of a Class B state championship, which includes an Oct. 24 showdown to conclude the regular season at fellow unbeaten Marshwood of South Berwick that may determine home-field advantage should the teams meet again in the Western Maine final.
McCarty isn’t looking that far ahead.
“We don’t focus on the record, we take it one game at a time, one play at a time,” he said.