Telstar Regional High School players work with tackling dummies during a preseason practice last year. (Sun Journal file photo)
Telstar’s 2018 season appeared in doubt for most of preseason. Getting through it intact could prove precarious, too.
Only 10 players showed up for the first day of practice. More started trickling in over the next two weeks, and on Aug. 24, one week before the start of the season, athletic director Gail Wight announced the team would proceed with its Class E schedule.
The Rebels had 16 players at press time, none of them seniors. They hoped to pick up a few more with the start of school the week leading up to their Sept. 1 opener against Traip Academy.
Whether they did or not, coach Tim O’Connor was confident his team was mentally and physically prepared for the season.
“The mindset and the attitude of the kids is great,” he said. “I think it’s good that we’re (moving forward with the season).”
The Rebels knew numbers would be down from last season with that senior class moving on and zero of last year’s already small junior class returning to replace them.
The plan is to withstand this season, develop the young talent they have, then press on in 2019, either with more reinforcements from the middle school or reconfigured as an eight-man football team, which the Maine Principals’ Association is considering for implementation as soon as 2019.
Most of the current juniors and sophomores improved as last season unfolded and should benefit from last year’s experience. That includes sophomore QB Davin Mason, who “stepped into that role last year and made good progress,” O’Connor said.
Aside from junior tight end Devin Cole-Mason, most of the skill players surrounding Mason are new. O’Connor thinks freshman Braden Stevens and junior Tyler Hill, who defected from soccer, have the athleticism to help at a number of positions.
The line, led by junior Jack Mallory and sophomore Matt Rice, could develop into a strength. But with numbers so low, staying healthy will be vital.
“Yes, we’re young, but we’ve got kids who work hard and want to compete,” O’Connor said.