In their effort to reach that level, the Red Eddies ventured even farther down the interstate.

Head coach Dave Sterling and assistant Craig Jipson traveled to the University of New Hampshire, taking in practice to analyze the blistering offensive pace that turned the Wildcats into national championship contenders.

They also accompanied their players to 7-on-7 tournaments in Massachusetts, where your first impression might be that EL was out of its league. And you would be wrong.

“We actually surprised ourselves. We got all the way to the playoffs,” senior running back and linebacker Corey Gillespie said. “We were pulling out last-second wins. It taught us how to fight at the end when you’re going on reserve fumes.”

When the Eddies applied those lessons to their in-state summer schedule, they found their recent tormentors from the Greater Portland area less intimidating.

“That was an eye-opener to see guys from out of state. A lot of our guys remarked that our speed level changed just by seeing a different level of competition,” Sterling said. “By doing that, (Maine teams) have a whole different perspective of who we are this year. We saw some people who didn’t want to match up with some of our guys because they were so aggressive. That was a big change for our culture.”

In the film room, the Eddies have sent hours analyzing the offensive line play of college powerhouses Oregon and Auburn. By staying put and focusing on the first-level blocking assignments in their spread offense, those linemen furnish an eligible passing opportunity for their quarterback on every play.

Small wonder that senior quarterback Matt Verrill can barely contain his excitement about this season. Verrill already set a school record with five touchdown passes in EL’s lone victory of the 2014 campaign at Noble, and there is little doubt he will put the ball in the air at least twice as much this autumn.

“I just want to strap up right now,” Verrill said during double-sessions week. “This offseason was really good for a lot of people.”

EL is equipped to win shootouts.

Drew Lashua returns as an all-conference receiver. Tyler Blanchard, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, will move around from the backfield to the slot to the flank in hopes of creating matchup nightmares for opponents.

“We’re clicking offensively, looked really good so far. We have a lot of depth at the wide receiver position,” Lashua said. “It’s a little bit faster game. We’re just trying to get everything crisp and in time with the quarterback.”

The visits to UNH may prove most applicable to what the Eddies do on a weekly basis.

Even though the Wildcats are a top-ranked team at a much higher level of the game, in the Football Championship Subdivision of Division I, their offense doesn’t require the pure, measureable skill you’ll find at an NFL scouting combine.

“We’ve been trying to drill the concept into our guys that while (New Hampshire is) one of the leading passing teams in college football, 90 percent of their passes are underneath 10 yards,” Sterling said. “It’s about just moving the ball.”

That nickel-and-dime approach is crucial for the Eddies, because they’re more adept at moving the chains than tipping the scales.

“We’re obviously not going to see a growth spurt before the start of the season,” Sterling said. “We have a lot of skilled position players that we want move around offensively and get into open space, and defensively, attack. If we sit still too long we’ll probably get punched in the face, because we’re not going to be a team like Bangor where it’s 280 (pounds) across the board.”

Bangor is the first team that gets to see the official unveiling of EL’s new look. The season-opener is set for Friday, Sept. 4 at Cameron Stadium.

Then come Portland, Oxford Hills, Cheverus and Windham in quick succession, a reminder of EL’s 0-5 stumble out of the gates a year ago.

”We’re looking to try to get a couple wins to start off the season rather than bounce back from losses,” Verrill said. “We’ve got a tough schedule, but I think we can do it, because the attitude this year is just insane. We’re hungrier than we were last year.”


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