MONMOUTH – Football appears to be the will of the people in this community.

After building their nests in a postcard-pretty town whose public high school dropped its football program nearly 30 years ago, a small but driven delegation of parents have gone about the business of revising that history, one hash mark at a time.

And now they are getting serious in a hurry.

They hired a head coach with a state championship on his resume. Independent of school sanction, they constructed a feeder system of football players from grades five through 12 whose enrollment recently hit triple digits.

While the official stance of school officials is wait-and-see, it is hard to imagine Monmouth Academy not going helmet-to-helmet with Winthrop, Jay, Livermore Falls and Lisbon in Maine Principals’ Association varsity competition by 2008.

“I’ve kind of let other people worry about that and just try to coach football,” said coach Norman Thombs, who guided Winthrop to the Class C title in 2000. “But in a couple years, we would be ready. We wouldn’t embarrass ourselves. It’s basically a huge group of freshmen and sophomores right now.”

Of the five seniors suiting up for Monmouth, only one, tight end and middle linebacker Matt Freeman, walked onto the gridiron last fall with significant football experience.

In junior high, Freeman commuted to Augusta and played on a recreational team. As a freshman and sophomore, he caught rides to Buckfield and Dixfield every day after school to get in his licks with the Buckfield-Dirigo cooperative team.

Most of Monmouth’s other upperclassmen are converts from its soccer program, which nearly folded prior to this season as a consequence of football’s growth.

“It’s a whole different atmosphere than soccer,” said tight end Tyler Somerville. “You’re actually allowed to hit people.”

Thombs walked into camp hoping to use the pass-happy playbook from his Winthrop days. Despite their lack of prior schooling in the shotgun formation and fly patterns, the Mustangs have made it a fun transition.

Monmouth won five of its first seven games. In the space of five days in early October, the Mustangs mauled a club team from Lincoln County, 48-0, then became the first team all season to score upon and ultimately beat Buckfield.

“(Thombs) definitely knows the game,” said running back and cornerback Adam Folsom. “When he calls a play, we know it’s the right one, and then it’s just a matter of us executing it. Football is ultimate team game. If you mess up, the whole team goes down with you.”

Monmouth’s seniors see the mud and fallen leaves covering their makeshift field at the fairgrounds and recognize that time is short. Folsom concedes that he wishes he were still a freshman some days.

The seniors also know, however, that they will enjoy a sense of ownership when the real payoff comes two, three or four seasons down the road.

“My goal is to get football started at this school so other kids in the future will be able to play,” Freeman said.

His classmate, Tim Meehl, agreed. “I want to be able to come back here someday and watch a varsity football game and know that we helped make it happen,” he said.


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