The recent heat wave notwithstanding, there’s a look of fall in the air.
A dry summer has parched lawns and fields, largely making mowing unnecessary. And that same pre-Earl dryness has left the leaves to change colors early in some instances.
And if the leaves are turning, it must be time to play football, so with high school teams around the state set to open their 2010 seasons this weekend, here’s one view at who may represent Eastern Maine in the state finals in Portland come Nov. 20.
Class A: Bangor is the returning champion, and returns the best player in senior Joe Seccareccia, at 6-foot-6 an imposing presence at quarterback and a hitting machine at free safety.
And while the Rams must rebuild along the line of scrimmage, they have plenty of weapons and perhaps more overall team speed than in recent years with a group of skill-position players led by tailbacks Josiah Hartley, Zeb Tuell and Wyatt Frost, receivers Joe Stanevicz and Nick Sherwood and tight end John Kelley.
Lawrence of Fairfield should challenge coach Mark Hackett’s club, while Mt. Blue of Farmington will rely on 17 seniors to elevate itself back to contender’s status. Cony of Augusta, led by quarterback Luke Duncklee, may be the best of the Pine Tree Conference Class A South.
The pick: Bangor.
Class B: Leavitt of Turner Center won it all in ’09, not only the Eastern Maine title but also its first state crown in a dozen years. Graduation losses were significant, but Leavitt boasts a new signature player in junior quarterback Jordan Hersom, who figures to be effective both as a runner and passer out of his team’s spread formation.
In fact, this should be a good year for quarterbacks throughout the PTC Class B ranks. Waterville boasts a third-year starter in Kyle Bishop, Hampden Academy also is well armed in senior Jon Haws, and Camden Hills of Rockport hopes to improve its lot under veteran signalcaller Collin Downs.
Waterville may provide Leavitt its biggest challenge, though a Week 1 game between the Hornets and Hampden may offer another sign of things to come. And no can write off Gardiner, a perennial contender led this fall by running back Alonzo Connor.
The pick: Leavitt.
Class C: Many people are saying this is the year for the smallest football-playing school in the state.
That would be Stearns of Millinocket, which as of April 1, 2010, boasted a 9-12 enrollment of 200 — 44 students less than the next smallest school fielding a varsity football team, Jay.
Yet from those 200, Minutemen coach Chris Preble has plucked a quality group of football players, many armed with several years of varsity experience, among them quarterback Jared McGreevey, running back Billy Eurich and lineman Charlie Tapley.
Graduation took a heavy toll on defending EM champion Foxcroft Academy, but the Ponies still have power in numbers – with more than 50 players on the roster – and that should give second-year coach Dan White the opportunity to develop new leaders as the season progresses.
John Bapst of Bangor may be one of the more physically imposing teams, particularly at the line of scrimmage, while Bucksport, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, Orono and a Calais-Woodland team that graduated just two starters also could contend.
The pick: Stearns.