Dirigo’s Michael Packard sheds a Gray-New Gloucester tackler as he heads up the field during Friday’s game in Dixfield. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
After last season Dirigo made the decision to drop from Class D to the developmental Class E. It was a move made in part due to low numbers in the football program.
Whatever people outside the program thought about the move, the players didn’t let any negative stereotypes of Class E damper their spirits.
“I don’t think so at all. We’re still playing football, we’re still coming out here on Friday nights, and there’s still a goal,” senior Alex Gorham said. “There’s still something to play for at the end.”
And if the Cougars felt like they had to prove something after the drop in class, they certainly have done so the first two weeks of the season, beating a pair of Class C programs in Old Town and Gray-New Gloucester.
Now the schedule turns to Class E play, where the Cougars will finish out their regular season against other teams in their new league, which they hope to be at the top of in their first season in the bottom division.
“We want to win every game and win the championship this year,” Gorham said. “So if we stay healthy, (we’ve) got that talent level, but we’re really excited to get after the teams in our league now.”
GREYHOUNDS HAD WINNING CONDITIONS
Fundraising efforts ton install lights at Lisbon’s Thompson Field are already well underway, but that doesn’t mean the Greyhounds are giving up the advantages of being a Saturday afternoon football host.
While Saturday’s 20-12 win wasn’t the type of steam bath September Saturdays at Thompson have so often been, Lisbon did wear down Mountain Valley and dominated the fourth quarter to rally from a 12-6 deficit.
“We enjoy playing on Saturdays,” Lisbon coach Chris Kates said. “We practice in black jerseys every practice. We’re used to the heat. I think our kids get a leg up on the competition early in the season based on how hard they work.”
“We do a lot of conditioning. We know we’re going to grind teams out,” said senior QB Lucas Francis, who rushed for all three Lisbon touchdowns. “We treat the fourth quarter as we’re going to grind them into the dirt now. We’ve grinded for three quarters. We’re well-conditioned. We’re out here running every day.”
Lisbon anticipated a physical battle with Mountain Valley, similar to last year’s 22-20 win in Rumford.
“It was pretty evident to anybody that was here that Mountain Valley was hitting,” Kates said. “They were bringing four or five guys to the ball every single time. They’ve always been a physical team. And they definitely challenge you up front.”
VIKINGS SHAKING IT OFF
Sometimes it isn’t the mistake that hurts a football team, but how it reacts to the mistake.
Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren admits that for years, the Vikings didn’t react well to mistakes. And that would often lead to more mistakes.
Although they are off to a 2-0 start, the 2018 Vikings aren’t perfect. But it is how they are putting their mistakes behind them that has Soehren so encouraged.
“These kids have a little bit different mentality than before,” he said. “But (a mistake) doesn’t phase them. A turnover doesn’t phase them. They just go play again.”
Soehren credits a growing confidence derived over the last two years by back-to-back playoff appearances, a playoff win in 2016 and big regular-season wins such as those over Portland and Windham last year for helping to change that mentality. He hopes wins like Friday’s 41-13 victory over Edward Little will keep it snowballing.
“I think that stage has been set a little bit by some of the successes,” he said.
PLOWING THROUGH HOLES
Poland earned its first win of the season Friday, defeating Freeport 43-12. The biggest contributor to the bounce-back win after getting shut out by Mountain Valley was the Knights’ running game.
Spearheaded by senior Tyler Tucci’s 113 yards and Joe Ringuette’s 95 yards on the ground, Poland totaled 305 rushing yards against the Falcons. As with any running game, the offensive line was the secret sauce for Poland’s big win.
“The O-line played great. They gave me a hole and we just pounded it right down the middle,” Tucci said. “The O-line did a great job getting pushback and blocking the linebackers and making holes.”
After Freeport returned the game’s opening kick off for a touchdown, Poland drove right down the field and finished off the ensuing drive with a Tucci three-yard touchdown to finally get on the board for the first time in 2018.
“It was like when you shake up a bottle of soda and you get a little pressure and all the sudden it pops and all the soda comes running out and we put up 43 points,” first-year head coach Spencer Emerson said.
While Poland ran well against Freeport, many of the Knights’ yards were accumulated late in the third quarter and into the fourth when they had a considerable lead and the Falcons were playing some backups. But Week 2’s taste of success might be the jolt of confidence Poland’s offense can build on for the rest of the season.