Oxford Hills’ Dawson Stevens is tripped up at line of scrimmage by Lewiston’s Sean O’Donnell.
By starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 2010, Lewiston has already matched or exceeded its win total from each of the past three seasons.
The Blue Devils, who sit atop the A North Heal point standings, have come a long way since the current senior class were green sophomores thrown into the fire and surrendering 60-plus points to Cheverus and Portland.
“We have some kids who have had to pay their dues,” Nicholas said. “From Garrett (Poussard) to Sean O’Donnell, they were starting their sophomore year.”
With victories over South Portland and Oxford Hills, it’s time to give the Devils their due. The defense, in particular, has made great strides, evident in Friday night’s 10-0 shutout of the Vikings.
“Our defense is starting to feel that they can play like that,” Nicholas said. “That’s where we’re getting better. We’ve got this bend-but-don’t break attitude. We had some red zone stops in the preseason against Bonny Eagle and Scarborough and we said ‘Let’s build on those.'”
Coming into the season, Nicholas was hoping to build off an athletic and experienced secondary and promising linebacker corps. The question was whether a revamped, inexperienced defensive line could hold up its end of the bargain.
“Keegan and Cody (Poisson-Bragdon) have been spot-starting for the last couple of years. Sean Lake, two years ago he wasn’t playing football and last year he was at tight end,” Nicholas said. “Isaiah Teague wasn’t even playing football last year. Our line is just going to get better and better and better. That line comes together with what we’ve got behind them, we could be okay.”
The line came together Friday night, penetrating into the Vikings’ backfield and making their running backs dodge tackles before they could even square their shoulders.
The linemen recognize the talent they have behind them, too. They’re not so concerned with bringing down the ball-carrier themselves as giving linebackers such as O’Donnell, Dominick Colon and Jeremy Madore a free path to make plays.
“Our responsibilities are to hold your gaps and they’ll fill behind you,” Voss said.
The defense will face another tough test on Friday when it faces the No. 2 team in the Heals, Windham (1-1).
“It’s not going to be easy, but going in there 2-0 we can walk in there with a little more confidence than 0-2,” Nicholas said.
Incidentally, Lewiston’s win marked the third year in a row the winning team in the Lewiston-Oxford Hills series threw a shutout. Lewiston won two of those.
Raiders freshman QB makes immediate impact
Transitioning to a new quarterback is always a challenge for any offense. Transitioning to a freshman QB, though, can be even more difficult.
Oak Hill and freshman QB Gavin Rawstron seem to be rapidly growing accustomed to one another. Rawstron followed a two-touchdown debut against Poland with another impressive performance in Saturday’s 36-12 win over Yarmouth.
“I think Gavin is playing as well as a freshman could play,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “We’re trying to keep it simple and not put too much on his plate. He showed some mobility today to get away from pressure, which puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Through two games, Rawstron has completed 19 of 31 pass attempts for 279 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception.
All four touchdown passes have been to senior speedster Darryn Bailey, including a pair against Yarmouth. One was a 71-yard bomb, the other a 21-yard lob that the 6-foot-2 Bailey to jump over two defenders in the end zone.
Since 7-on-7 drills over the summer, Rawstron and his receivers have been working hard to develop a rapport, which Bailey hopes leads to more frequent opportunities to put the ball in the air as the season unfolds.
“We’re definitely progressing,” Bailey said. “We’re always throwing in practice, always doing routes in practice. But we definitely don’t throw enough. I think we can throw more. We’re just clicking.”
Choate, Ramblers rebound
Another young quarterback who showed growth in Week 2 was Winthrop/Monmouth sophomore Keegan Choate.
After a rough debut in a 46-0 loss to Wells, Choate rebounded with a strong all-around game in Friday night’s 27-18 comeback win over Old Orchard Beach.
“We protected him a little bit better, but he’s one that just processes and wants to learn,” Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “If he makes a bad pass or a bad decision in practice, he wants to run the play again until he gets it right.”
Choate made all of the right decisions against OOB, going 13-for-22 for 185 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also knew when to tuck it in and run it, tallying 59 yards and two short touchdowns on 17 carries. That included a pair of 14-yard runs and a 23-yard run.
St. Hilaire said he was particularly impressed with Choate’s decision on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown pass in the third quarter. The Ramblers had three receivers lined up to one side, and Choate went through his progression efficiently to find Greg Fay running a slant on the back side for a 33-yard touchdown that made it 21-18.
Another key for the Ramblers was the improved play by the defense. The Ramblers were bolstered by the return of Trenton Wood on the defensive line.
“I don’t know how many tackles he had but they couldn’t block him,” St. Hilaire said. “He pressured their QB, Boudreau, all night.”
In addition to Wood, veteran defensive end Noah Elegbede was closer to 100 percent after being hobbled in Week 1.
The Ramblers should continue to get healthier for next week’s game at Madison, when senior linebacker/halfback Abram Sirois is expected to return from a knee injury. St. Hilaire is also optimistic that another injured starter, senior linebacker Zac Wallace, who hurt his knee against Wells, could be back before the end of the season.