2017 HS Football Preview: Blue Devils hope to extend stay in temporary home

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Lewiston High School head coach Bruce Nicholas runs practice during the preseason.

LEWISTON — The Lewiston Blue Devils have to wait a year for their new permanent home on the high school’s campus. But they want to be a factor in Class A North right now.

Lewiston will play its home games at Bates College’s Garcelon Field this fall as construction of the new athletic complex continues, with plans to move back onto their own turf field next year. In the meantime, the Blue Devils are hoping to extend their four-game stay at their temporary home by at least one game in the postseason.

They have reason to think they can, or at least believe that they have closed the gap on the teams that finished ahead of them in 2016.

It’s been a two-year process, coach Bruce Nicholas said. The senior class has enviable varsity experience and is entering the second year operating Nicholas’ multiple-formation scheme.

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“We’ve got some kids who as sophomores were thrown into the fire having to play against Cheverus and Portland and Windham maybe a little earlier than they should have been there, but they were good enough,” Nicholas said. “They’re seniors now and hopefully they’re ready to do a little more of the punishing.”

The Blue Devils have the weapons to go on the attack. Junior QB Tanner Cortes returns after taking over the starting role three games into his sophomore season.

“We have a lot of good skill on offense,” senior running back/slot receiver Sean O’Donnell said. “We have Tanner coming back and he has a lot of experience for a junior.”

Garrett Poussard, Brock Belanger and Jeremy Madore return as Cortes’ top options, whether the Devils are running the Wing-T or spread. The focus in preseason was stitching an offensive line together to block for them.

“We feel pretty good about our specialty spots,” Nicholas said. “Our line is almost like last year in that I had to take a bunch of seniors and say ‘Here you go.’ And we’re kind of doing it again this year with a few guys who are seniors whose turn it is to do this.”

“All of the terminology, even everything we put in (at the start of preseason) went smoother, so we’re ahead in that regard,” Nicholas added.

The defense is ahead of the offense in terms of experience.

“Our secondary and our linebackers were all there last year. A couple are sliding into different spots and we’ve got to find a couple of big tackles,” Nicholas said. 

“It’s ditto from last year,” Nicholas added. “We’re finding the same positions to fill, it’s just different guys that are filling them. I hope we’re going to be better overall. I think we can be.”

The Devils think moving from the grass surface at Don Roux Field to the turf at Garcelon will enhance their team speed once they get accustomed to the new surface.

“It’s all different, making cuts — it’s all different on turf than it is on grass,” O’Donnell said.

“Practicing at Bates is going to help us a lot getting used to the turf field, getting used to how the balls bounce as opposed to on grass,” Poussard said. 

If they can get most of those bounces to go their way, the Blue Devils could find themselves enjoying some overtime on the college stage.

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