EAST MACHIAS — The fledgling Washington Academy football program was at a crossroads last winter.
After four years of competing as a club team, school officials had to determine if the Raiders were ready for varsity competition, and whether joining those varsity ranks might provide the motivation needed to create interest in a feeder program for the high school teams in the coming years.
“We knew we were at the end of our fourth season and had a decision to make,” said WA coach Barry Terrill, a former football player at Orono High School who served as an assistant coach at his alma mater for seven years and also at John Bapst of Bangor for a year before heading Down East.
“We knew it was a pivotal moment for our program, and so there were two or three meetings where we talked about it, and it could have gone either way, but the factors for going varsity outweighed the other factors.”
Terrill fielded a roster numbering in the low 20s for his team’s controlled scrimmages against Orono and Nokomis.
“It gave us a first good look,” he said. “The kids came out of that thinking, ‘OK, now I understand, now I see how it is.’”
The Raiders will be led into their Friday night opener at home against Bucksport by three four-year players in seniors Nick Pineo, Zac Ragot and Taylor Ackley.
Pineo plays quarterback on offense, while Ragot is at fullback and Ackley plays tight end. Pineo and Ragot will anchor the defense from their linebacker slots, while Ackley is a defensive back.
The Raiders also have some experience along the line of scrimmage in juniors Tyler Warner, Nick Burrill and Anthony Soto.
“We’re a pretty veteran team, but we could use a few more bodies,” said Terrill, who hopes to get some additions to his team’s roster once school starts.
“We haven’t really talked about wins and losses, we just want to play hard, get better every week and improve so by the end of the season we’re a better team than we are at the start.”
Increasing interest in the sport both at the school and in the area’s youth ranks is a longer-term goal for the Raiders.
Terrill and his staff conducted a one-week flag football camp during the summer, and a coach recently was hired to lead an area team for middle-school age players this fall. There also are hopes to develop a flag football program for even younger players.
“We worked real hard all summer trying to get kids out for football,” said Terrill. “But it’s hard to get kids out to play varsity football for the first time without them having played in a feeder program.
“When you don’t get them early, it’s tough to convince a 14- or 15-year-old to play football for the first time, so having a feeder program is very important.”
WASHINGTON ACADEMY RAIDERS
2010 results: played as club program
Head coach: Barry Terrill, 3rd year
Key players: Nick Pineo, QB-LB, Sr.; Zac Ragot, FB-LB, Sr.; Taylor Ackley, TE-DB, Sr.; Tyler Warner, OT-DT, Jr.; Nick Burrill, OG-DT, Jr.; Anthony Soto, C-NG, Jr.; Andrew Farnsworth, TE-FS, Jr.
Outlook: This late arrival to the varsity football scene this year will face the challenges all first-year programs face, among them a much faster-paced game than it is used to at the club level while facing largely subvarsity opponents. In Pineo and Ragot the Raiders have two top-quality athletes to build around this season, a season that may not be measured so much in wins and losses as it is in establishing a benchmark for the program’s growth.