Dirigo found itself down 32-8 at halftime last Saturday at Old Orchard Beach. 

The defense wasn’t working and the offense wasn’t producing enough, so senior running back Curtis Errington went to his coach with a suggestion: To move from the 4-1 formation to their base defense in which the team feels more confident in. 

It worked, and Errington, with 30 tackles, led Dirigo back to a 34-32 win, which was the team’s fourth in a row. 

“Curtis came up to me, and we were running a 4-1 and our run defense wasn’t working,” Dirigo coach Craig Collins said. “I will give Old Orchard all the credit in the world, they’re a good team. Things weren’t working well for us in our 4-1 so we went back to our base defense and Curtis was the one that adjusted it. He’s our senior leader and I thought about it, and from that point on the kids played better and had more confidence in what they were doing.”

Collins describes Errington as a quiet leader. 

“He’s not a rah-rah guy but when he does speak, they do listen and they know that things need to straighten out,” Collins said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and sometimes players brush coaches off, but he’s taken ownership of the team, as well as (senior captain Lucas Micks), and it means a lot to them. When Curtis speaks, they listen.”

After halftime, Errington quickly scored a 96-yard touchdown on offense to jump-start the Dirigo attack on its way to a comeback victory. Now the Cougars, after losing their first two games, have found their stride on the field. 

Cutis Errington of Dirigo High School scoots down the sideline on his way to a first-half touchdown run while Mountain Valley’s Kaden Paaso tries to catch him during an Oct. 1 game against Mountain Valley High School in Rumford. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

ROCKY START

Errington got hurt in the week leading up to Dirigo’s opening game with Boothbay and was cast to the sideline as the Cougars lost 26-0 in Week 1. The Cougars also were hampered by COVID-19 cases that limited their practice time in the preseason leading into the school’s first eight-man football season.

“I didn’t play in that game but from what I heard from the guys, they were kind of confused on some of the stuff they were doing, some of the assignments,” Errington said. “A scrimmage before that probably would have helped a lot but we didn’t end up having one.”

Errington said his team learned in the Boothbay game and then in the Spruce Mountain game, Errington’s 2021 debut, as Dirigo lost 52-22 to start the season 0-2. 

Since Week 2 on, starting with the team’s 30-14 victory over Maranacook in Week 3, Dirigo has won four consecutive games and Errington has found that not much has changed from the 11-man game down to eight. 

In the team’s four wins, Errington has 777 yards of offense and also has 80 tackles on the season.

“Running is the same but you don’t have as much field to run around on,” Errington said. “I think it’s similar. Basically, if there’s open field in front of you and you get by the first line, the first couple of guys, then it’s pretty much open field from there.”

Dirigo running back Curtis Errington (12) tries to run away from Maranacook’s Owen Dunn, who caught one of Errington’s feet and brought him down, during a football game Sept. 17 at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

IMPROVING EVERY DAY

Even after losing its first two games, Dirigo’s attitude never changed, according to Collins. 

“They kept being excited to be playing football,” Collins said. “I just kept telling them to believe in what we are doing, the process and what we are going to do and everything’s going to work out. In the first two weeks, it didn’t look like it but I will never use excuses. I had to figure out what was best for this team and we did.”

One change Collins made was changing the pre-snap formation from the shotgun to the pistol to help start Errington in a better position. 

“What happened was we changed where Curtis was,” Collins said. “We had him at the beginning of the year, we had him at the side of the quarterback in the shotgun. He didn’t look comfortable in that position. We decided to go to a pistol formation and he’s more comfortable running downhill.”

Collins said that Errington has run for more than 700 yards in the team’s four wins. Junior quarterback Charlie Houghton has run the offense all season, but Collins said that the Cougars take what the defense gives them. In games like their 16-6 victory over Mountain Valley, it was the run game that gave the Cougars the win. 

“I’ll put it this way,” Collins said. “There were about 160 plays on Friday between us and Old Orchard. When we scored, we scored quick, so Old Orchard had the ball a lot and Curtis had 30 tackles against Old Orchard. Curtis makes things happen and I can’t say more, he’s just a great player and kid. He makes the right play all the time. You look at him and he’s not a very big kid, but he’s a competitor and he wants to win.”

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