Orono High School’s Red Riot football team made significant strides a year ago, especially considering there were only seven seniors on the roster.
The Riots followed a 1-7 campaign in 2009 with a 3-5 regular season last year that landed them a berth in the LTC quarterfinals.
Bob Sinclair, in his eighth season directing the fortunes of the Riots, expects another dramatic upturn.
“I think we’re going to be much better than last year. We should be a much stronger playoff contender,” said Sinclair. “We have eight of our 11 starters on offense and seven of our defensive starters returning.”
“We’re really excited. We had a great summer. The kids played in the passing league in Hampden and worked out (in the weight room). They did everything we asked them to do,” added Sinclair.
Despite Orono winning just four games the previous two seasons, senior running back Dominic Mowrer still strung together a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and was a first team All-LTC selection last fall.
He will be joined in the backfield by his brothers, sophomore twins Cameron and Christian Mowrer, along with senior quarterback Bryce Mehnert, who will be a three-year starter.
Cameron Mowrer will be the fullback with his brothers flanking him.
Mehnert, according to Sinclair, has “made huge strides every year.”
The Mowrers should have some nice holes to run through created by the likes of veteran tackles Jack Lucy and Zac Landean, who are both juniors, senior tight end Tyler Higgins and senior All-LTC second team guard Mac Seavey.
“The line has been opening huge holes,” said Dominic Mowrer. “I told them I’m not going to have to do anything now except hit the holes as hard as I can. Our line has improved a lot.”
Higgins, senior tight end Sam Chase and wide receivers Tyler Eddy and Justin Szeker will be among Mehnert’s targets, although the Riots will be run-oriented, according to Sinclair.
“We have always been able to run the ball and being more experienced and older will help us,” said Sinclair. “We’ll have much more balance this year. Dominic will have fewer carries. He won’t have to be the face of Orono football. We’ll be able to spread things around.”
Mowrer doesn’t care if he gets fewer carries as long as the team wins.
“(By spreading out the carries), we’ll all have fresher legs,” he said. “This will take a lot of pressure off me and open up a lot of doors for the younger backs so when the seniors leave, they’ll continue to do their thing.”
Mehnert said he wouldn’t mind elevating the passing game.
“I like the idea of throwing the ball more,” he said.
Junior Norton Revell, who transferred to Orono from Presque Isle, has been a “great surprise to us,” according to Sinclair, who will use him at fullback, halfback and inside linebacker.
The defense should be improved with a year of experience and Sinclair said he and his staff have focused in on “better secondary play.”
There should be an improved pass rush with Seavey at nose guard and Landean and Lucy at the tackle spots.
Christian Mowrer will be a defensive end.
Chase, Cameron Mowrer and Revell will be expected to supply the Riots with solid linebacking play and the secondary will include safeties Mehnert, Dominic Mowrer and Higgins.
“We have a lot of talent on defense and some experience, too,” said Chase. “We’ve switched to a 5-2. I’m excited about our defense.”
Chase said the Riots have “certainly taken our share of bumps and bruises” and now they’re looking to take the next step.
“At the very least, we want to have a winning season,” said Chase. “Getting the opportunity to play an undefeated team (Stearns of Millinocket) in the playoffs really helps you go forward.”
Orono opens its season on the road in Pittsfield against Maine Central Institute on Friday at 7 p.m.
ORONO HIGH SCHOOL RED RIOTS
2009 results: 3-6, lost in LTC quarterfinals
Head coach: Bob Sinclair, 8th year
Key players: Dominic Mowrer, HB-S, Sr., Mac Seavey, OG-NG, Sr., Jack Lucy, OT-DT, Jr., Bryce Mehnert, QB-S, Sr., Zac Landean, OT-DT, Jr., Sam Chase, LB-TE, Sr., Tyler Higgins, CB-TE, Sr., Norton Revell, FB-HB-LB, Jr., Cameron Mowrer, FB-LB, So., Christian Mowrer, HB-DE, So.
Outlook: The steadily improving Riots appear poised to make a deep playoff run after winning just one game two years ago. “We have 19 real good football players and a bunch of young kids (who will help us sometime),” said Sinclair. Their offensive and defensive units are both laden with veterans and star running back Dominic Mowrer should flourish with fewer carries thanks to a more balanced attack featuring his brothers, twins Cameron and Christian, and three-year starter Mehnert at quarterback. The Riots are switching to a 5-2 defense to shore up their pass coverage.