Dave Crutchfield loves having most of the old gang back together. He’s not crazy about the new name it’s had foisted upon it, however.

“This is the old Class C that we’re used to, minus Jay and Livermore Falls,” the Dirigo coach. “We don’t have the  big schools that have come down and gone back up like Winslow, and we don’t have a lot of the new schools like Yarmouth. But I don’t like it being called ‘Class D.’ People hear Class D and they think it isn’t going to be good football. But this is Class C football. It’s going to be very competitive, I can tell you that.”

Indeed, while much of the preseason buzz has gone to the revamped Eastern B, the new fourth class, Class D, could be as competitive as any in the state. In the West, perhaps as many as half of the 10 teams can make a good case for legitimate contention, and with eight teams making the post-season, no one would be shocked if a lower seed makes a run all the way to Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“The league is very, very even this year,” said Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette. “I don’t think you’re going to see anybody run away with it. I think it could be like the NFL, where the hottest team at the end of the year is going to win. Injuries and eligibility could be a big factor.”

But if Western D is going to resemble the old Campbell Conference Class C, it might as well also have a familiar favorite. Many coaches in the tri-county region pointed to Lisbon as the team to beat.

Eligibility will be a factor early for Lisbon, which will have to play at least the first two weeks without a handful of starters. The untested line will be particularly vulnerable during that period, but coach Dick Mynahan likes the depth and size he has up front and is excited about the Greyhounds’ level of preparation for the season.

“This is probably the best preseason I’ve had. I’ve never seen a team that has come into the season in better shape,” said Mynahan, whose teams have always prided themselves on their conditioning in his more than quarter century at the helm.

Perhaps the only team in D West that will need to reintroduce itself is the new Winthrop/Monmouth co-op. Coach Joel Stoneton goes into the season with twice as many players as he had last year and enviable depth that will allow him to start numerous players on one side of the ball and keep even more fresh bodies on special teams.

The influx of talent from Monmouth’s club team, which played a JV schedule, provided sorely-needed reinforcements on the line and generated competition at numerous positions, including quarterback. After the first preseason game, Stoneton said Jared Hanson, Winthrop’s starter the last two years and the more mobile of the two, and strong-armed D.J. McHugh of Monmouth, would split time at the position, with the starting assignment going to whoever fits Stoneton’s game plan that week.

Stoneton insisted trying to placate both towns with the platoon never factored into his decision.

“There’s just no clear decision,” he said. “They’re both performing well. We’re developing both to play other positions so they can both stay on the field when they’re not playing quarterback. I’m here to win football games. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from.”

Dirigo graduated 11 starters from its regional final team. Junior fullback Tyler Frost is the lone returning starter in the backfield and one of the best ballcarriers in the conference, but Crutchfield expects others to contribute to the running game and the passing game, led by sophomore Riley Robinson, to get in on the act.

“I think we’re going to be very balanced,” he said. “I don’t think Tyler is going to be a feature back by any means. We’ll get other people involved and things are going to add up.”

Oak Hill played power football to a No. 2 seed in last year’s playoffs. The Raiders still have their top two rushers, Alex Mace and slimmed-down Kyle Flaherty, as well as quarterback Parker Asselin and big tight end Luke Washburn to make plays. But much of their power came from a rugged offensive line, most of which has graduated.

“We know that we’re young up front,” Doucette said. “We’re going to work hard and we’re going to make mistakes. The key is making fewer mistakes every week.”

Telstar isn’t going to try to overpower anyone. The Rebels don’t have the size, but they do have multiple backs to run the ball and get away from some of the predictability that stunted its offensive production in its first two years of varsity action.

Coach Tim O’Connor points to newly-departed Yarmouth, whose brief stay in the old Western C included back-to-back state titles, as an example of how a team built for speed can succeed in a conference that takes pride in its physical style.

“They weren’t big, but they were pretty fast and they would out-execute you,” O’Connor said. “That’s the way we’re headed.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.