Play to your strengths.

When Dirigo employed that strategy the past four seasons, especially the 2014 campaign, it naturally involved Tyler Frost. Roughly 5-foot-8 and 235 pounds with a heart bigger than his body, Frost flaunted a knack for taking over games as a fullback and linebacker.

Frost’s graduation will change the Cougars’ philosophy and general appearance, but don’t rush to the assumption that their streak of journeys to the Class D South semifinals and finals will end as a result.

“We’ve got some good pieces,” Dirigo coach Jim Hersom said. “We think we’re a little bit more athletic. We’re going to try to get the ball on the perimeter and use our quickness and speed. We’re pretty excited about what we’re doing at this point.”

That isn’t merely optimistic spin, as anyone who has followed the Dirigo boys’ basketball program in recent years can attest.

Multi-sport athletes Riley Robinson and Gavin Arsenault, both contributors since their freshman year, will help carry Dirigo’s gridiron fortunes as seniors. Robinson is a third-year starter at quarterback, while Arsenault is expected to shift from split end to tailback.


Robinson is on pace to score just shy of 2,000 points in his hardwood career for the Cougars, and much of his spring and summer were devoted to an ambitious, national AAU schedule. Football was never far from his mind, however, and he said there was no chance of him choosing to walk away and rest up for winter.

“I love getting back to football,” Robinson said. “I love this team, love Coach Hersom. We’ve got a great coach, a great group of guys, and I’m excited for the season.”

Hersom didn’t have to worry about his signal-caller being underprepared. Both coach and player agree that Robinson’s cross-training left him even better prepared for the rigors of autumn.

“He’s improved physically, tremendously,” Hersom said. “He’s in great shape. He just played so much basketball and did so much training. He had a personal trainer and developed his strength. He really looks explosive.”

“Getting in the weight room, it’s not only preparing for basketball but getting stronger for football, too,” Robinson added. “Playing year-round keeps you in shape and gets you ready for any sport.”

Dirigo’s offense a year ago was a heavy dose of Robinson taking the snap, spinning around and planting the ball in Frost’s bread basket. There was also the playoff run two years ago when the Cougars employed a single wing in the playoffs, with Frost taking direct snaps.


There will be no such air of predictability this season. Robinson’s arm may take on added importance, and the Cougars should be able to grab chunks of yardage with an array of backs and slot receivers that will include Arsenault, Mike Casey, Cooper Chiasson and converted lineman Vincent Hebert at fullback.

“Obviously no one person is going to replace a player like Tyler, but we have a lot of young kids that are going to step in,” Robinson said. “Cooper Chiasson is going to have a big year. Gavin Arsenault broke out last year as a wide receiver, and he’s going to get a lot more touches. Our group is a very versatile group, very fast group.”

Arsenault has been delayed at the new position by a right ankle injury suffered during summer basketball.

“We’ll have a lot of guys running the ball, different plays from last year. It will be nice,” Arsenault said. “We just have a lot of athletes on the team. We can make big plays when we need them.”

Dirigo also has continuity in the offensive line, where center Dalton Berry and guards Bryce Whittemore and Bennett Dorion return, and in the coach’s office, where Hersom settles in for his second year.

The first go-round was productive. The Cougars lost only one regular season game and fell at home to eventual state champion Oak Hill in the playoffs.


“We know what we’ve got, and we know what we need to work on,” Hersom said. “From that standpoint it makes it really good, absolutely.”

Even with all its athletes and recent winning tradition, Dirigo may not draw the preseason attention bestowed upon Lisbon, Oak Hill and Winthrop/Monmouth in Class D South.

That’s fine with the guy under center.

“I’m excited. There should be a lot of close games and it should be a lot of fun,” Robinson said. “It should be kind of like the basketball season was in the MVC this year — crazy.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.