Gray-New Gloucester players practice during preseason drills.

Gray-New Gloucester players practice during preseason drills.

GRAY — New Gray-New Gloucester coach Duane Greaton has run football programs at the youth and middle school levels in Gray, so he knows there is a passion for the game in the community waiting to be unlocked.

“Our first year with the middle school, we went from 13 to 34. Same thing here —  numbers are desperately low and we’re just looking for a way to get kids back.,” Greaton said. “We are predominantly young — talented but young.”

Greaton kept the roster open right up to the Maine Principals’ Association deadline to welcome anyone into a program just a season removed from its first playoff appearance.

The Patriots followed that high-water mark with an 0-8 season last year, so there is a sense that they are starting over again, especially with just three seniors on the roster.

“I’m happy with the effort level we’re getting. We’re getting maximum effort from all of the kids. We’re just trying to get people excited about Gray football,” Greaton said. “Obviously winning will draw more kids in, and we’ve got a ways to go for that.”

The three seniors — Boomer Simmons, Jaykob Sanborn and Eric Thompson — have bought in. Perhaps more importantly, they understand their role in getting others to buy in, too.

“The big thing is the culture,” said Simmons, a running back/linebacker. “The coaches can only do so much. The players have got to bring it.”

“We’ve got to bring a different attitude to the field,” said Sanborn, a wide receiver/defensive back.

“We’ve really got to clean up all of the little stuff and have a lot of discipline,” said Thompson, a two-way lineman.

Running the same Wing-T offense and 5-2 defense they ran in middle school should help the Patriots eliminate some of those mistakes. 

“I think there are only three kids on this team that I haven’t coached at one point during their careers,” Greaton said. “It’s the same thing we’ve run grades one through eight, all the way along.”

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