One local football coach said after a game Friday night that his team was “still trying to find our identity.”

Never mind that said coach and team had just won a game scoring 51 points while giving up just six.

But Spruce Mountain coach Walter Polky, who uttered those words, makes a good point about his 2-2 Phoenix team. They’ve lost big in their two tougher games (32-6 at Wells and 55-12 at Cape Elizabeth), but also were missing key senior starters in both. Then they’ve looked like one of those tougher teams in 47-14 and 51-6 wins over Lake Region and Gray-New Gloucester, though those two opponents might make up the bottom of Class C South when all is said and done.

So the question for Spruce Mountain is “Who are you?” at the midway point of the season. It’s a question probably every local coach can ask of his team four games into an eight-game regular season.

If the Phoenix can stay healthy and continue to jell on the offensive line, they will be able to put up points with most teams. With running back Dillon Webster back — he returned to play against Gray-NG — the Phoenix have a tough runner to go along with big, athletic quarterback Caulin Parker and speedy slot Austin Darling to form a three-headed senior monster at the skill positions.

“They’re good athletes. They know the system. They believe in it,” Gray-NG coach Mark Renna said of the Phoenix. “We’re just not at that point right now. We’re trying to get there. We’re trying to figure out our team.”


Through four games, the Patriots look like the team that entered last season on a 22-game losing streak, rather than the one that finished the regular season 4-4 and earned the program’s first playoff berth. But this Patriots team is young, starting as many as six freshmen against the Phoenix while only having three healthy seniors (and missing one important senior lineman).

Without Brandon Laflamme, Gray-New Gloucester (0-4) had to lean on junior running back Boomer Simmons for leadership. He did all he could, but the Patriots were no match for the Phoenix.

“We sat down with him at the beginning of the year and said, ‘You’re a returning starter in the backfield. We’re going to lean heavily on you,’ and we have,” Renna said. “He’s risen to that challenge. But he can’t snap the ball, hand the ball off to himself and block for himself. We have to get better around him, and we’re trying to. He’s just a great kid, he’s a tough player, fierce competitor. Never wants to give (in), never quits.”

Simmons ran the ball 21 times Friday night, blocked for freshman runner Scott Lynch and played linebacker on defense.

Class A North

Like Spruce Mountain, The Red Eddies of Edward Little (2-2) might not know who they really are until they are fully healthy. EL coach Dave Sterling said Friday night that he has 10 starters stuck on the sidelines with injuries, including starting running back Caden Begos.


The Eddies have a full complement of talented receivers for strong-armed QB Grant Hartley, but if they can’t grind out tough yards then the offense isn’t complete. They could have used those tough yards in a close loss in a 17-14 loss to Cheverus.

Otherwise, Edward Little has shown flashes that it can knock on the door of the top teams in A North. The Red Eddies played Portland even through one half, and came up just short against Cheverus.

Oxford Hills/Buckfield (1-3), too, has shown flashes, after winning just one game last year. The Vikings have just as many halfway through this season, but have been competitive in most of their games. They can physically match up with any team. The Vikings are a last-play touchdown against EL from having two wins.

Lewiston (1-3) is still learning to win, and doesn’t have the same size that many of its A North rivals boast. The Blue Devils have some nice offensive pieces, which showed in getting their first win, 34-14 over Bangor, on Friday.

Class B North/South

Young. That applies to both Leavitt and Mt. Blue. And in Maine high school football, youth can learn some tough lessons.


Two regular contenders (and in the case of the Hornets, regular title contenders) have just one win between them through four games. Leavitt (1-3) had played close games all year before losing 31-6 to a two-time defending state champ Marshwood team that is also trying to find its footing. The Cougars (0-4) have two straight close losses after two not-so-close losses to start the season. At least they scored three touchdowns after not scoring any for two games.

Both teams are asking new players to step into starting and starring roles. Even for two great coaches in Leavitt’s Mike Hathaway and Mt. Blue’s Jim Aylward, that’s a lot to ask.

Class C South

It’s already been established who Spruce Mountain and Gray-New Gloucester are, which is to say even those teams don’t know who they are. The same can be said for their C South rivals, Mountain Valley (2-2) and Poland (1-3).

The Falcons have a program that is used to winning, but havn’t done much of that in recent years. They hoped to change that this season, but they haven’t yet to the degree they want to. The Falcons had their hearts broken against Yarmouth, falling a two-point conversion short. They had their will broken against Wells in a 49-6 loss.

The Knights are learning how to win with a new coach and many new players. They finally got it right Friday night, beating Lake Region 32-20. The new coach, Gene Keene, has won at other stops. He has what he calls a “green” roster, and that youth was put up against Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth early in the season. The Lakers are more on the Knights’ level, and those new players learned what it takes to beat another team.


Class D South

If one local team knows what it is, it might be Winthrop/Monmouth. And the Ramblers are tough and resilient. They’re also talented and experienced.

That’s how they’ve gotten to 4-0. The Ramblers jumped on Lisbon in a season-opening game-of-the-year-type tilt. Then they had to sweat out wins over Traip Academy and Dirigo — but they found ways to win. A win over much-improved Old Orchard Beach came easier, and the Ramblers showed what a giant they can be.

They still have yet to face Oak Hill, however, and the three-time defending champ Raiders (4-0) will have something to say in D South before all is said and done. Oak Hill has shown growing pains as it replaces key pieces that helped reel in gold balls, but the Raiders still look to be among D South’s best.

Lisbon (2-1) and Dirigo (1-2) are the chasers in the division. The Greyhounds stumbled out of the gates against Winthrop/Monmouth, but have bounced back with shutout wins over Maranacook and Dirigo. Lisbon has leadership just like the Ramblers, and the Greyhounds are starting to put the pieces together for another trip to the regional final — or, they hope, even further.

The Cougars, meanwhile, are battling a numbers game. The players they do have are talented and have won before in football and in other sports, but attrition can hit them harder than Winthrop/Monmouth and Oak Hill, as well as Lisbon, to a degree. Still, the Cougars will be a tough out come playoff time.

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