Matt Vigue of Spruce Mountain catching a 70-yard touchdown pass on the West’s third play from scrimmage.

Leavitt’s Gabe Seeley fighting off apparent defensive pass interference, then adding insult to injury with a diving, one-handed grab in the end zone.

Tyler Frost shooting every miniscule gap that presented itself, chalking up a fistful of tackles for loss while doing Dirigo and the Class D division of the Campbell Conference proud.

Championship-winning cohorts Kyle Flaherty and Alex Mace of Oak Hill cleverly collaborating for a first down on a fake punt.

Talk about a mixed bag. While those performances reminded family, friends and fans at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford what a spoiled-rotten 2014 season it was, they also reinforced the fact that all those players were recent graduates, suggesting that 2015 could be a lean year on the local front.

As they prepare for tonight’s kickoff to that campaign, coaches and players see it differently. In fact, in an astounding development, most of those teams expect to be as good if not even better than last year.

“We have a lot of returning starters,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “The state game, I think we played over 20 kids in that game. We did lose a great group of seniors, but we have kids who worked hard in the offseason.”

Doucette’s running back tandem started from early in their freshman year, one autumn before he arrived.

Flaherty and Mace combined for close to 7,000 all-purpose yards. Each had an unforgettable day in a state final, leading the Raiders to consecutive Class D championships.

Why the what-me-worry attitude in Wales? Running behind a line that flaunts three-year starters Austin Goucher, Garrett Gile and Brendon Tervo, a committee led by Steven Gilbert and Levi Buteau has shown itself ready to shine.

The same attitude prevails in the rival town of Dixfield, where Frost flattened foes with his bowling-ball style as both a fullback and middle linebacker the past three years.

Bidding farewell to such a physical and emotional leader is no blessing, by any stretch of the imagination, but it gives Dirigo a chance to reinvent itself. Riley Robinson will take on greater responsibility as a third-year starter at quarterback while handing the ball to lifelong teammate Gavin Arsenault, sophomore Cooper Chiasson and others.

“In the running game, we’ve got a lot of young, good athletes, we think,” Dirigo coach Jim Hersom said.

You can’t generally replace one of your school’s all-time greats with a single player, so how do you proceed with life when you lose your three best athletes to graduation?

That’s the conundrum for Spruce Mountain coach Walter Polky, who not only must find a way to make up for Vigue’s production but also rebuilds without three-year, two-way starters Peter Theriault and Deonte Ring. Most of the meaningful touchdowns for the Phoenix since 2012 involved at least one of those three standouts.

New-look Spruce Mountain will feature Vigue’s cousin, Andrew Darling, in the all-purpose role, with Caulin Parker taking over at quarterback and Dillon Webster and Austin Henault providing the thunder and lightning in the backfield.

“Andrew is the same thing as Matt, a slot, hybrid player,” Polky said. “We think Dillon Webster is the guy to watch on offense.”

Dick Mynahan laughed nervously at a recent Lisbon practice while watching Tyler Halls make one-handed, fingertip catches from a teammate in a game of soft-toss.

The laughter was probably directed at Halls’ many talents. The nerves, a reminder that the venerable coach doesn’t want to see his leader get hurt and knows he will be missed at his old position of split end.

Lisbon moves its best available athlete to quarterback full-time this year after three outstanding seasons under center from Kyle Bourget.

“Tyler also may be the best defensive back in the Campbell Conference,” Mynahan said. “The problem with him is he can’t play all the time, because we can’t get him hurt. We need him the whole season at quarterback.”

Oxford Hills didn’t have the luxury of keeping Davis Turner on the sideline the past three years. He shone for the Vikings as both the best linebacker in Class A North as well as an explosive fullback.

Turner is now a scholarship player at the University of Maine, and predictably it will take three or more players to fill his cleats. Kyle Dexter, Jake Spinhirn and Ryland VanDecker all may log some of the carries that went to Turner and Malik Geiger in recent years. VanDecker draws the assignment of filling the defensive void.

“We do have depth,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said. “There is a lot of competition at those positions.”

Leavitt has the luxury of returning most of its offense except for Seeley, including leading receiver Max Green.

Billy Bedard, who lined up at every skill position spot as a sophomore two years ago, may find himself more of a vertical target this year. He’s not as tall as Seeley, but he has the athleticism to be one of the top players in Class B South.

“Sophomore year I was there not to mess up,” Bedard said. “This year I’m all over the place, really. Wherever coach (Mike Hathaway) wants me, I’m going to do it.”

Other notable local changes as a result of departures from the depth chart:

Stefan Porter takes over for Quintarian Brown as the featured back at Lewiston, a marquee location dating back to Jared Turcotte’s unforgettable career in the mid-2000s.

Edward Little switches to a more pass-first version of the spread offense after the loss of speedy tailback Hunter Martin.

Christian Whitney slides into the Mt. Blue backfield role vacated by J.T. Williams.

It’s a rite of summer and fall, of course. Most boys don’t mature physically and enjoy substantial varsity playing time until their junior season. Coaches are accustomed to complete turnover every two years or so.

“We’re replacing a lot of our athletes,” Lewiston coach Bruce Nicholas said, “but we’ve got athletes back.”

The high school life cycle in a nutshell.

Let the games begin.

[email protected]


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.

filed under: