Head coach Bruce Nicholas talks to the Lewiston football team Monday morning at the start of the first day of football practice on a brand new football field. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Head coach Bruce Nicholas, far right, leads the Lewiston football team in the very first drill on the new football field on Monday morning. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
LEWISTON — There have been times in previous coaching stints that Lewiston head coach Bruce Nicholas has had to pick up rocks and toss them off the football field.
So, during his opening statements prior to the first practice of 2018, Nicholas pointed out how fortunate the Blue Devils were Monday morning.
“We get to start on this,” Nicholas said, pointing to the new green field behind him.
Monday morning was the first day of fall sports practices in Maine, and the first time the Blue Devils were able to set foot on the new, improved and relocated Don Roux Field.
The new digs made the first practice a little more special.
“We’re all excited,” quarterback Tanner Cortes said. “You see guys laying on the logo and stuff, it’s a great feeling.”
The new football field is located on the exact same spot as the Blue Devils’ former practice field. But it isn’t the same field.
“It’s awesome,” Nicholas said. “We used to practice back here, and it was just woods and it was a swamp.
“We’ve been excited about this for a while.”
The new field also is a nice upgrade from the previous one, which has been turned into a parking lot for the new elementary school. Instead of an uneven grass field, there is now a state-of-the-art artificial turf with striking blue end zones and painted white and yellow lines (the Lewiston soccer teams also will play on the field). Also, the bleachers are now several feet closer to the field.
“It’s not even done yet and it’s getting me hyped up,” Cortes said.
“It’s pretty much an honor to be a senior class on this field,” Hunter Landry said.
Landry and Cortes are both seniors this year. During their football careers, they’ve spent two years playing on the old Don Roux Field and last year on Garcelon Field at Bates College.
The new field combined with the large number of players who graduated in June make this a new era for Lewiston football.
“It’s a fresh start, kind of, for the program,” Cortes said. “Just being the first senior class to play on the field and really set the tone for the rest of the years for our program — I mean, this is going to be around for a while, and to say, ‘I was the first one, we set the tone, we got the rock rolling,’ it’s a great feeling.”
Nicholas said that every team in Maine was starting from scratch Monday. With that in mind, the Blue Devils spent their first practice of the day working on basics, including a few reps practicing the huddle.
“I think every head coach will tell you, if we can the paperwork in, if I can get the kids there, we can stretch out, we can get them in line, and maybe run two, three plays … and we did that this morning, so I’m happy,” Nicholas said. “You always hope it would be a little bit better, but the first morning in football — I’ve done other sports — it’s just crazy.”
The Blue Devils, coming off a 4-5 season and a first-round bye in the postseason, already have their attention honed in on their first opponent. They open the 2018 season at Don Roux Field against Oxford Hills on Friday, Aug. 31.
“They’re going to bring some heat,” Nicholas told his team before they took the field Monday.
He went on to reference the Vikings a handful of times throughout the morning practice.
The Blue Devils are excited to show off their new house.
“Coming down, getting on this turf for the first time, there’s nothing really like it,” Landry said. “Like I heard (Cortes) say, it’s not even done yet. Imagine being here under Friday Night Lights, there’s nothing else compared to it.
“I’m excited to play here.”