Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln has been a perennial LTC title contender for many years.
Last season, with only five seniors (two of them first-year players) on the squad, the Lynx simply didn’t have enough experience to keep up with the likes of Stearns of Millinocket, John Bapst of Bangor and Foxcroft Academy.
Coach Dave Hainer believes Mattanawcook Academy, with a bit more playing experience this season, should be improved in 2011.
The Lynx have 34 players in uniform as they prepare to show their growth on the field.
“I expect us to be competitive,” said Hainer, himself a former MA football standout. “We’ll see which close games we win and which close games we lose. I expect us to be competing for one of those home playoff spots.”
Mattanawcook has seven returning starters, only two of whom are seniors, but there are some hard-nosed players in that group.
Hainer also likes the camaraderie of this year’s team heading into the season.
“They’re really a tight-knit group,” he said. “What I’ve liked most is the upperclassmen really taking the freshmen under their wing and helping them out. We’re going to be relying on a lot of young kids.”
Heading up the MA talent pool is Ryan O’Hara. The speedy 6-foot-4 junior was an All-LTC first-team pick at tight end and also played defensive end.
Other skill-position standouts for the Lynx include senior captain Cody McDonald, who played quarterback the second half of the season but is moving back to wideout. He is the quarterback of the defense in the secondary.
Sophomore quarterback Tristan Pelkey is a playmaker who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 5 during 2010. He’ll direct the offense and try to use his speed and strength to best advantage while throwing his weight around at strong safety.
Junior Ben Ferland is a physical fullback and linebacker, while senior Brady House and juniors Mitchell Sibley and Regan Sereyko are all returning starters on the line. House also plays defensive tackle, with Sibley holding down a linebacker slot and Sereyko subbing at defensive end, tackle or linebacker, as needed.
Senior Tyler Langley is what Hainer called a difference-maker as a slotback and defensive end opposite O’Hara.
“If Langley and O’Hara stay healthy, that will probably be our biggest strength, those two guys,” Hainer said. “Quarterbacks aren’t going to want to drop back and pass.”
In the middle of the defense is sophomore linebacker A.J. MacEachern, who has made tremendous strides.
The Lynx will look to take advantage of their speed on the outside with their “jet sweep” and their short passing game.
Hainer said MA should be better with its first-string players, but does not yet have depth to be able to absorb many injuries.
“I’m relying a lot on sophomores and juniors, but they’re sophomores and juniors that have some experience,” Hainer said. “I think we’re going to be better this year, but I think we’re still maybe even a year away from being even better.”
Mattanawcook opens its season on the road when it travels to Bangor to face John Bapst on Friday at 7 p.m. at Cameron Stadium.
MATTANAWCOOK ACADEMY LYNX
2010 results: 2-6, LTC Class C
Head coach: David Hainer, 4th year
Key players: Cody McDonald, WR-DB, Sr.; Brady House, OT-DT, Sr.; Ryan O’Hare, WR-DE; Tristan Pelkey, QB-DB, Soph.; Ben Ferland, RB-LB, Jr.; Mitchell Sibley, OC-LB, Jr.; Regan Sereyko, OG-DL/LB, Jr.; Tyler Langley, FB-DE, Sr.; A.J. MacEachern, LB, Soph.
Outlook: Mattanawcook appears to be a team that has enough good athletes to help the less-experienced team members learn quickly and well. The Lynx have some big, strong, physical front-line players who should be able to put points on the board and cause turnovers. If they can stay healthy, the Lynx should be a dangerous team come postseason.