Edward Little players practice during a preseason workout.

Edward Little players practice during a preseason workout.

AUBURN — Edward Little coach Dave Sterling liked the progress his young team made last season, reaching the playoffs and nearly joining Portland, Windham and Cheverus in the region’s final four.

Sterling also sensed that, with 15 seniors this year, the Red Eddies could ramp up the pace of that progress if they were prepared for what comes next.

“The message is we need to get to a higher level,” Sterling said. “We’ve done well. We’ve made the playoffs successfully. But we all know if we want to get to the end point in late November, we can only do that through hard work.”

To that end, the Red Eddies emphasized strength and conditioning during the off-season and made trips to Portland and Boston to go head-to-head with big schools in seven-on-seven. 

“We played with a lot of upper-level teams and got the pace going a little bit more,” senior wide receiver/linebacker Maxx Bell said. “We got a new coach (Ilunga Mutombo) who’s been really pushing us in conditioning, so we’re going to be conditioned well this year, best conditioned team in the state, I believe. So we’re really getting after it.”

The Red Eddies will go after opposing defenses with a prolific passing game. After a slow start to his junior season, QB Grant Hartley rallied to lead Class A in passing yards.

“Things kind of slowed down after the first couple of games. I feel like everything has slowed down this year and the chemistry (with the receivers) is still there,” Hartley said.

He lost all-conference receivers C.J. Jipson and Tyler Blanchard to graduation but still has an enviable selection of targets, led by Bell.

“We’re going  to have a lot of depth this year. We shouldn’t be tired because the conditioning has been crazy,” senior tight end/linebacker Terrell Thomas said.

Senior Caden Begos will get the bulk of the carried when the Eddies look to balance things out on the ground. Latrell Thomas and Kevin Lachance are the key returners on a young offensive line.

“We’re rebuilding our offensive line a little bit,” Sterling said. “Three of our five starters graduated, and we’re pretty happy with the kids that have stepped up.” 

The Eddies should improve defensively after struggling at times last year with a new 4-3 scheme built around their speed. Returning linebackers Thomas, Bell and Justin Theriault are the backbone of a defense that hopes to tackle better and force more turnovers.

“We’ve got a lot to work on. Last year was a good step forward with the new defense,” said Theriault, a senior middle linebacker. “The 4-3 definitely works for us.”

Crossover games with Massabesic and Deering, as well as conference clashes with rivals Lewiston and Oxford Hills, could be critical to securing a home playoff game at Walton Field, and ultimately progressing through the playoffs.

Edward Little players practice during a preseason workout.

Edward Little players practice during a preseason workout.

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