Edward Little’s Joshua Hamel hauls in a pass as Portland’s Cameron Connolly moves in for the tackle during a game in Auburn on Sept. 8.
Two keys to Edward Little’s first 3-0 start since 2008 is its physical conditioning and mental toughness. Both were on display in Saturday’s come-from-behind 26-20 win over Cheverus.
The Red Eddies trailed 14-0 before most fans had settled into their seats and 20-7 at the end of the first quarter. They’ve had too many similar starts in past matchups against the Stags, but with 13 unanswered points in the second quarter, showed they had a different outcome planned.
Senior quarterback Grant Hartley chalked it up to the team having a little more experience and better perspective.
“It’s just about overcoming adversity, being older, being more mature and just knowing that it’s still early. There’s still plenty of game left,” Hartley said. “Just flush it down the toilet and forget about it and just keep playing.”
The mind may be well to pull off a comeback, but the body needs to be up for the challenge, too. Saturday’s matinee at Boulos Stadium was played under a blazing sun with temperatures in the mid-80s. In anticipation of the conditions, the Eddies did some extra conditioning work during practice, building on an intense regimen that goes back to earlier in the summer.
“We had an extremely hard preseason,” coach Dave Sterling said. “We conditioned our guys.”
“It’s insane the amount of work that we put in over the summer in conditioning,” senior Maxx Bell said. “We had double sessions just for conditioning, pretty much. It’s really paying off, and we’re still doing it.”
Sterling and the players are eager to credit first-year strength and conditioning coach Ilunga Mutombo with getting them ready for the physical grind of the season.
Sterling was eager to add Mutombo, who coaches eighth-grade basketball at Auburn Middle School, to the staff.
“He was the guy I wanted right from the get-go,” Sterling said. “He’s been an excellent add-on to our program and he’s blended into our coaching staff extremely well.”
“He’s a big morale booster,” Hartley said.
Vikings bounced back in Bangor
Oxford Hills rebounded from a 10-0 loss to Lewiston in Week 2 with a convincing 47-7 win at Bangor on Friday night.
Perhaps more important than the final score was the fact that the Vikings were more disciplined than they had been in the first two games, including the Week 1 win over Portland.
“We had two penalties,” Vikings coach Mark Soehren said. “It was a much, much cleaner game. That was the goal.”
The Vikings got senior running back Dawson Stevens going early with touchdown runs of 63 and 51 yards. Stevens had 174 yards on nine carries in the first half alone.
“In the first half, Dawson’s athleticism was really on display,” Soehren said. “He just made a lot out of nothing. There wasn’t a ton of blocking on the outside. He just made some incredible moves.”
Junior QB Colton Carson had touchdown passes of 56 and 10 yards to senior wide receiver Chris St. Pierre. St. Pierre, who joined the team this year, had his best game of the season with three catches for 92 yards and the two scores.
The Vikings rolled up 522 total yards, 411 rushing.
The defense continued to play well, allowing just 159 yards (13 passing) and forcing a pair of first-half fumbles.
“The defense was great,” Soehren said. “(Bangor) had a 59-yard touchdown by the fullback in the second quarter, but other than that, we really did a nice job.”
The Vikings’ schedule gets considerably more difficult over the next month, starting with undefeated Edward Little on Friday night. Home games with Windham and Thornton Academy and a road trip to Scarborough follow.
Devils benefiting from tough competition
After Lewiston’s 20-14 loss to Windham, Blue Devils coach Bruce Nicholas reeled off his team’s tough schedule so far this season: Windham and Oxford Hills on the road, preseason road scrimmages against Scarborough and Bonny Eagle — two of the state’s top teams.
So far, Lewiston has acquitted itself nicely, even in Friday’s setback.
“If they’re the best in A North, which right now, that’s what the feeling is, I think we can play with them,” Nicholas said. “Long season left.”
The Blue Devils also have fared well against good players. In the season’s second week they held Oxford Hills’ Dawson Stevens, Class A North’s second leading rusher, to 63 yards on 17 carries.
Windham’s Stuart Salom entered Friday’s game against Lewiston as the leading rusher in A North, averaging 140 yards in the first two games of the season. On Friday, he gained 94 yards on 23 carries.
“No. 21 (Salom) looks like he got hurt a little bit, and he’s the guy that’s been running the ball for them a lot, and we sort of shut him down,” Lewiston coach Bruce Nicholas said. “Two weekends in a row, we shut down the best running back, but they (Windham) found other ways.”
Salom did almost reach the century mark Friday, but the Eagles took over the momentum in the second half when they looked elsewhere. Lewiston particularly struggled to contain Nazari Henderson and Treva Valliere in the second half.
Valliere ran nine times for 47 yards. Henderson had two carries for 16 yards and caught five passes for 51 yards.
“They found some things that started to work for them,” Nicholas said. “No. 24 Henderson just made some tremendous athletic plays. He was the best athlete on the field tonight.”
Lewiston’s offense, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going after halftime, going three-and-out on three of its four second-half possessions, and not getting a first down until late in the fourth quarter — on a fake punt, no less.
“We were running the same things we were before, but they started to take over on the line. I think in the first half, our line was a little more dominant. And I think the second half … our running backs just couldn’t get to the line of scrimmage.”
Furthering the Blue Devils’ struggles — on both sides of the ball — was the injury that limited Hunter Landry most of the second half.