Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire speaks to members of the team during a preseason practice.
WINTHROP — Winthrop/Monmouth’s only loss of 2016 came in the waning seconds of the Class D South final against Lisbon, denying the Ramblers’ large, talented senior class a state championship berth it seemed destined to obtain.
There are no such expectations surrounding the Ramblers this year, partly because those seniors are gone and partly because Class D South may be the most competitive league in the state this year.
The current crop of seniors — a few starters but mostly next men up — are fine with not being as highly-touted as their predecessors. Just don’t underestimate them, either.
“Last year, we kind of knew we would be a good team,” senior lineman Luke St. Hilaire said. “This year, there are a lot of question marks and we feel like we’re proving ourselves a little bit more.”
Sophomore Keegan Choate proved himself early in preseason to earn the starting quarterback job, replacing three-year starter Matt Ingram. Last year’s JV starter may not throw the ball downfield as much as Ingram did, but he’s shown good pocket presence and, with good decision-making, can get the ball where it needs to be, coach Dave St. Hilaire said.
“We’ve got playmakers,” Dave St. Hilaire said. “They may not be as explosive or consistent, but we’ve got quite a few that can execute. We may not be able to throw that long ball, play-action like we did last year, but we will be able to connect and throw the ball and keep teams off-balance.”
Senior Cam Gaghan, Choate’s early-camp competition at QB who will line up in the backfield and out wide, is among the more experienced weapons. Junior halfback Kane Gould has big-play ability in the wing-T running behind senior fullbacks Abram Sirois and Jack Caprara.
St. Hilaire went into the season a bit concerned about his offensive line depth, but the group gelled quickly in practice. Son Luke St. Hilaire, the only remaining captain out of last year’s seven, is moving from center to left tackle to stabilize Choate’s blind side.
With the line’s continued development, the Ramblers believe they can be as potent as last year’s conference-leading offense (32 ppg).
“I think we’re clicking a lot better this year,” Gaghan said. “Last year, it took until week three or four to click.”
The defensive line is the most experienced unit on the team, as several were pressed into action due to injuries last year. Five of the top six linemen return. Boynton leads a deep linebacker corps.
“Our front eight I’ll stack up against anybody else’s,” Dave St. Hilaire said. “We’ve got size, we’ve got speed and playmakers. We’re set there. We’ve got to replace a cornerback and a safety.”
Winthrop/Monmouth will have to do it in one of the top divisions statewide.
“There’s still a little bit that lingers there, but we’ve definitely moved on,” Luke St. Hilaire said. “It’s pretty much a new division this year. I personally think it’s one of the most competitive divisions in the state, just based on the teams that are in there.”