Dirigo players put in some work on the line during the preseason. (Randy Whitehouse/Sun Journal)
Dirigo coach Jim Hersom isn’t expecting the Cougars to lose any of their competitive edge just because they dropped down from Class D to Class E this season.
Low numbers forced the move after a rash of injuries last fall left the Cougars clinging to the season by their fingernails. Hersom wanted to stay in Class D, but couldn’t envision his team physically holding up through the grind of the season when the most optimistic estimates had the roster topping out at around 20 kids.
“It’s just too bad we couldn’t get a few more kids,” Hersom said. “It’s hard. But the kids have been great. These kids that we’ve got have been committed. They’ve all worked hard. They all want to do well. So we’re encouraged.”
“I think there is some really good character here and I think there are some pretty good football players,” he added.
The Cougars picked up big wins over rival Mountain Valley and Old Orchard Beach to make the playoffs last year despite being shorthanded and relying on freshmen and sophomores to fill the holes.
Most of those underclassmen are back, a little bigger and stronger and a lot more comfortable with varsity football.
“It was really helpful playing last year,” said sophomore QB Cam Brown, who inherited the position early in his freshman year due to injuries. “Now I have a ton of film to go over. I’m comfortable with all of the players we’ve got back from last year.”
Many of the players who are back will join Brown in the backfield of their Wing T. Senior Alex Gorham, junior Mike Packard and sophomores Dallas Berry and Liam Burnett all took turns carrying the ball last year.
“I think experience is a big key for us because a lot of us had to step up last year because of the injuries,” Brown said.
As they learned the hard way last year, versatility will also be a key for the Cougars. Players spent the preseason learning multiple positions to maximize the depth chart.
“We definitely want to stay as healthy as we can, and maybe we’re due for better luck after last year,” Gorham said. “But a lot of kids need to be ready to step up and play a lot of different positions.”
Graduation took more experience from the line, which will be led by senior Jack Lavorgna.
Class E doesn’t have a Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned playoff like the other four classes, but does play a limited playoff schedule. If they can stay healthy, the Cougars should be among those who extend their season in the developmental league.
Dirigo players participate in a passing drill during the preseason. (Randy Whitehouse/Sun Journal)Dirigo players work on passing during the preseason. (Randy Whitehouse/Sun Journal)