Poland Regional High School players practice during preseason workouts.
POLAND — Count Poland among the former Class C schools embracing their new home in Class D.
“I’m excited for it. We’re playing a bunch of teams we played in middle school,” senior tailback Aaron Paradis said. “It’s nice to have more teams our size. It’s a lot different going 30-on-30 than a Cape Elizabeth with 75 guys on the sideline.”
The Capers showed how lopsided that matchup was with a 40-6 quarterfinal route in the Knights’ last game in Class C. But the Knights freely admit they always felt like they fit in more smaller schools such as Oak Hill, Lisbon and Winthrop/Monmouth.
“There are a lot of rivalries from Class D teams we played in rec league,” junior tight end/linebacker Tyler Tucci.
“Last year, we were kind of at the bottom end of Class C enrollment-wise and now we’re kind of at the top end of Class D,” Coach Gene Keene said.
Keene doesn’t encourage any notion that means the Knights will be able to skate to a playoff spot in Class D. But he and the Knights believe there is room for growth in their second year together.
“We’ve got a good mix of veteran kids and young kids,” Keene said.
“We only lost six seniors, so a lot of guys have been in the system and know what they’re doing now,” Tucci said. “We need to be consistent every play.”
Poland should get more consistency from a talented backfield led by Paradis and junior QB/WB Gawain Tibbetts.
“I think that’s where our strength is,” Keene said. “We’re trying to put our line together. We hope they come together fairly quickly because I think we’ve got some pretty good skill kids.”
Tackles Tyler Crepeau and Sam Benedict will be key to development on both sides of the line of scrimmage. They are also part of a rebuilt defensive front.
“That’s where we lost most of our kids. Defensively, we’ve got some work to do,” Keene said.
The Knights expect it to take time for all of their new parts to fit in, but also know that, unlike last year, they should be more competitive while being patient.
“We’re trying to stay in the game mentally. We’ve got to stay positive and look forward to the next play,” Paradis said.
“I think overall, we’re way ahead of where we were last year at this time,” Keene said. “That being said, a lot of people think that Class D is going to be a cakewalk for us after playing with Class C, but that’s certainly not true. We open up with Oak Hill that’s one three of the last four titles in D, then we go to Lisbon, who was in the state title game last year. It’s a tough schedule.”