Mountain Valley players hit the sleds during preseason practice.

Mountain Valley players hit the sleds during preseason practice.

RUMFORD — For all of the seeds of optimism Mountain Valley planted with a 4-5 2016 season, coach Pat Mooney and his players thought they could have enjoyed more of the fruits of success in Mooney’s first year if they finished stronger.

“We felt like we had a good team last year. We just had to change some work habits and work on the big goal,” Mooney said. “We were two plays shy of finishing 6-2 in Class C. Now, we’ve just got to finish the job.”

Optimism and sense of purpose added a little extra excitement to the Falcons’ first preseason since moving down from Class C to Class D.

“Since my freshman year, I have not had a preseason like this,” senior guard/linebacker Ian Brennick said. “Everyone’s working. Everyone’s busting (butt) every single day.”

The Falcons are taking their cue from a tough, battle-tested line stocked with three- and four-year starters.

“Last year, it was mostly about the fourth quarter,” senior tackle/linebacker Hunter Ames said. “This year, we’re doing a lot more conditioning and I think we’ll be able to outwork a lot of teams in the fourth quarter.”

Ames and Brennick lead a line that will power the ball-control offense. Senior Cameron Payne leads a mostly revamped backfield along with senior Nathan White and juniors Jacob Blanchard and Avery Bradeen. What the group lacks in varsity experience it makes up in athleticism.

Mountain Valley feeds off of its defense historically, and Mooney is hoping to help the unit set an aggressive tone with more pre-snap movement and coverage disguises to confuse blocking schemes, pressure the quarterback and force more turnovers.

“I think with the personnel we have, it’s time to just let them off the leash and let them go,” Mooney said.

The Falcons will be stout up the middle with Ames and Brennick behind a line led by seniors Camden Mason, Curtis Gauvin and Tyler Murray and juniors Darrin Buono and Bradeen.

Moving down a class doesn’t guarantee success for Mountain Valley. Starting with the season-opener against Dirigo, their D South rivals will have the game against the storied program circled on the schedule, as will the teams that came with them from Class C. But the Falcons still could find the finish line looks awfully familiar.

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