Bucksport’s Evan Trojano, left, tries to pull down Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale’s Dominic Trott during a Sept. 3 football game at Maxwell Field in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It’s been a while since you could talk about the Class D power structure without mentioning Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale.

Poland, on the other hand, is newer to the conversation. But the Knights are hoping they’re going to be remaining a part of it for the rest of the season.

The Knights and Ramblers meet Saturday night in a game that should add more clarification to the Class D picture. The Ramblers, an annual power and contender, are 2-0 after wins over Bucksport and John Bapst. The Knights are 1-0, having beaten Class C Belfast 27-13 in their only test so far of the season.

“This is a good test for us, to play someone of this caliber,” Poland coach Gus LeBlanc said. “Winthrop is an established program, they’ve been established for a while and they’ve had success. And Poland is a program that’s on the rise. … We’re very young, and we’re going to be playing a program that’s used to winning. It’s a good test, it’s a good way for us to measure where are we in the pecking order.”

Poland used to be one of the easier games on the Ramblers’ schedule, but the Knights have given signs that they’ve improved. They beat Westbrook, currently 2-1 in Class C South, in a scrimmage in the preseason, then beat a Belfast team that had already defeated MCI.

“They’re only going to get better,” Ramblers coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “The team we saw last week is probably going to look a little different, and it’s probably going to look even better.”

Here’s a closer look at the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale and Poland matchup:

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale’s Logan Baird runs for a touchdown during a Sept. 3 football game at Maxwell Field in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Poland Regional High School, Poland

W/M/H-D coach Dave St. Hilaire on Poland: “They’ve got a lot of good skill guys. They’ve got skill guys everywhere. They’ve got a couple of good running backs that run hard, they get through holes quick, they just need a small opening. We’ve got to make sure we don’t let them get running like they did against Belfast.”

Poland coach Gus LeBlanc on W/M/H-D: “They’re big and they’re physical, especially on defense. They cover the field really well. … They run some Wing-T, so you have to be prepared for that. They also run some I-Formation stuff, right at you stuff, and if you have a big, physical line like they do, that makes perfect sense to me.”

Three keys for Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale:
Don’t oversell for the run. Poland threw only once against Belfast, but that was due to backup quarterback Lagan O’Driscoll coming into the game early on. With a week to get him acclimated to the starting job, and the knowledge that they’ll likely need to put up points in order to hold off the Ramblers, the Knights will likely take a few more chances in trying for some chunk plays through the air. The Ramblers can’t leave themselves vulnerable.

Be ready for the two-headed attack. Poland has a pair of capable running backs splitting carries in Isaac Fifield (around 150 rushing yards against Belfast) and Brady Martin (around 85 yards). The Ramblers will have to be ready for both running styles, since the running game is the heart of Poland’s offense.

Win at the line of scrimmage on offense. The Ramblers’ offensive line has been one of its strongest units so far, with center Liam Burgess and guard Jake Umberhind leading a group that has allowed ball carriers to rush for 520 yards over two games. If they can control the game in the trenches, Poland will find it hard to get the Ramblers off the field and keep them off the board.

Three keys for Poland:
Get creative. Just handing it off to Fifield and Martin up the gut will probably be tough sledding against the Ramblers’ front. LeBlanc should make it a point to keep Winthrop off balance, and do whatever he can to get Poland’s strong skill players the ball in different parts of the field. Screens, draws, passes to the flat, all could be good to keep the Ramblers on their heels and playing tentatively.

Defend the whole field. The Ramblers under St. Hilaire have never been afraid to go for the big passing play or lean on stretch runs and sweeps in addition to the ground-and-pound game. The Knights will have to have all of the Ramblers’ skill players accounted for, and be ready for the ball to go to them on anything from a simple handoff or a 30-yard pass downfield.

Don’t get fazed. There are 35 players on the Poland roster, and 23 are freshmen or sophomores. Going up against a Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale team that was in the D South final the last time football was played and is an early favorite to be in the championship game this year could rattle a young team, but LeBlanc said his group has shown toughness and resilience so far.

“We’ve been able to build some character,” he said. “We’ve been able to get our players to a point where they’re going to hang in there, they’re going to play tough.”

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