Coach Gus LeBlanc leads fullback Regan Cohen and quarterbacks Dylan Cook and Sam Luce in pre-practice drills Tuesday evening in Poland. LeBlanc is beginning his second season leading the Poland Regional High School football team. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Some athletic directors are scrambling to hire more coaches, but the Poland football team is fully stocked and good to go this summer.

Elsewhere, though, the coaching merry-go-around continues to swirl, with recent hires at several area high schools.

Poland football coach Gus LeBlanc is feeling confident, especially with a robust player turnout and a full coaching staff ready to let loose for full season of tackle football in the shadow of the lingering coronavirus.

“Gus LeBlanc is a second-year football coach for us, but this is his first year coaching tackle football for Poland Regional,” athletic director Don King said. “Last year, as you know, was an interesting year to say the least. We have lost a couple off of the staff, but Gus has forged on to build or rebuild this program.”

For LeBlanc, the wait is over for Poland to play tackle football.

“It is kind of like sometimes anticipating a big event in your life,” he said. “You can just feel the momentum and the energy building. I just came from a weightlifting session this morning. I (saw) 27 kids in the weight room. You can tell that our kids are hungry. You can feel the energy building — and that’s the good news for the game of football.”

The forced hiatus allowed LeBlanc to get the Knights’ house in order and rebuild his coaching staff for a regular season as COVID-19 starts to abate. The Knights’ several assistants include Bruce Nicholas, Noah Collins, Jeff Inteferrere and Doug Patenaude. 

LeBlanc, who recently finished a year-long stint as principal at Lewiston High School, embraces the return of tackle football for several reasons.

“Our motto, just to give you an idea this year, is, ‘Everybody blocks; everybody tackles, hit, hit, hit,’” LeBlanc said. “What separates football from other sports — and there is a lot of contact sports out there — but football is a collision sport. Hockey has a little bit of that, but not like football.

“I think when you take that dimension from the game, the whole piece of collision, blocking and tackling, it takes some of the character away from the game. I think having that back is critical.”

LeBlanc said the Knights will field an 11-man team this season.

“I am not a big fan of (eight)-man football,” he said. “I know it works for some schools, but I am an old-school (coach) and I love the complexity, the strategy and the different possibilities created by 11-man that don’t exist when you go to eight-man.”

The possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak reminds LeBlanc that being cautious and mindful are still important.

“I think you have to be,” he said. “Half-a-million people or more have died from this. I don’t think it kind of goes away and you ignore it, but at this point, the whole coaching staff has been inoculated. So, yeah, we are trying to be cautious and prudent about it, but it isn’t at the level where it was …”

MEET THE NEWBIES

There was a handful of hires for girls varsity basketball. Poland also hired first-year coach Tyler Connors and Winthrop brought on John Baehr.

Jacob Turner is the new girls soccer head coach at Spruce Mountain, but athletic director Marc Keller said he is still on the look out for an assistant and junior varsity football coaches.

Brittany Moore, who played Division I soccer for the University of Massachusetts, will become the new Oxford Hills girls varsity soccer coach. Martin Ball will take over the reins as Mountain Valley’s new boys soccer coach.

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