Bill County was the only head coach the Blue Devils had known since the turn of the century, covering the lifetime of most current players.

In the Sun Journal’s tri-county coverage area, only Dick Mynahan of Lisbon has spent more years shepherding his program. County and Mike Hathaway of Leavitt were the only others to have led their current team for more than five autumns at the end of last season.

So it was an entirely new ballgame with Bruce Nicholas moving into the coach’s office this summer. Nicholas, 56, is no rookie, having led Oak Hill for many years and assisted at multiple schools. He was Lewiston’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons.

“It is way different than having a brand new coach come in that we hadn’t met before,” junior quarterback Jared Rubin said.

Nicholas won’t strive to reinvent the wheel.

Lewiston was known for its punishing tailbacks and big-play athleticism during County’s tenure, one that produced two trips to the regional championship game. He hopes to instill those sensibilities with a few of his own subtleties thrown into the frying pan.

“You’ll a see a little bit different formations, but a lot of the same plays,” Nicholas said. “We ran trap last year, but we’ll run it out of a little more traditional Wing-T formation. We’ll run some I-formation with Stefan (Porter) at tailback. You’re going to see us throw the ball, too, so we’re going to mix it up.”

Porter is the senior heir apparent to Quintarian Brown, an explosive if injury-prone centerpiece who himself succeeded three great ones in Jared Turcotte, Wesley Myers and Jeff Turcotte.

“There is a little pressure, because I want to live up to what they did,” Porter said. “Every day I’m working harder.”

Rubin started his sophomore camp a year ago as the third-string signal-caller.

He received his break when Brown, whom County shifted to quarterback in the wildcat formation, left the season-opening game against Oxford Hills with an injury.

“It’s a different ballgame now, because I know I have a shot at playing. Last year I had no idea I was going to play before I had the job,” Rubin said. “It feels good that I already have chemistry with Stefan and some of the guys that were here last year.”

Nicholas has seen some of the usual benefits of a new regime. Close to 50 players reported to a summer camp at the end of July.

Also, more than 30 freshmen turned out for the team, creating a happy problem: Nicholas didn’t have enough helmets to accommodate everyone on the first day of practice.

Seniors Tahj Fulgham and Will Adams have returned to football after sitting out the past two years.

“We’re getting a little bit of that. It would have been the same with the change whether it was Bill for me or me for Bill. Kids I had in class or whatever,” Nicholas said. “It just happens. It’s a big school. I see this program (eventually) having 70 kids out here on a Friday night. It’s going to happen.”

Lewiston’s football fortunes have sagged recently. The Devils’ last deep drive into the playoffs was 2010, capped by a heartbreaking loss at Bangor in the Pine Tree Conference championship.

Realignment prior to the 2013 campaign brought Portland-area schools back onto the schedule, putting the Devils on the business end of many one-sided losses as they readjust to that level of competition.

Rubin’s two-point conversion pass to Brown produced a 20-19 win over Edward Little and saved Lewiston from the ignominy of a winless season a year ago.

“We’re just pumping everybody up and getting rid of those bad thoughts that we hear from other schools. It’s a new year, so we’re just going to go out there and do what we know how to do,” Porter said. “We’re young, so people are kind of down on us. We’re putting in the work, and we’re going to make it happen.”

Nicholas noted that six of seven teams make the playoffs in Class A North, and that he simply wants to be one of them.

His quarterback has bolder ideas.

“Our goal is always to win the state championship,” Rubin said. “It’s realistic. We have a good team this year.”


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