Mount Desert Island coach Mark Shields will need his players to learn quickly if the Trojans are to make it back to the playoffs.
“We graduated some pretty good seniors,” said Shields, who is in his ninth year leading the Trojans and 16th overall season with the team. “We graduated some quality football players. It’s typical for high school teams. You’re going to graduate some and you need new kids to step up and fill those spots.”
MDI lost to Gardiner 43-22 in last year’s Eastern Class B Quarterfinals.
A key loss is starting quarterback Duncan Smith.
Senior Donny Hanson has been tabbed to take over the QB job.
“He played end for us last year, this year we’ve moved him to quarterback,” said Shields. “He’s an athletic kid with good speed. We’re hoping he has a strong year. He’s also probably our best tackler on defense. He plays safety for us (too).”
Shields also praised some of his returning seniors, who will have to demonstrate leadership.
“Jayson Burke was second-team all-conference last year. We’re expecting some good things from him,” Shields said.
Other seniors include fullback and middle linebacker Elias Burne, center and defensive tackle Lucas Murphy and halfback and strong safety Cameron Crawford, who mostly filled in when injuries hit, will get his shot to be a starter.
“Then we have a lot of inexperienced kids that we’re going to be playing,” said Shields. “We don’t have fabulous numbers, so many will have to play both ways.”
Shields has an unique philosophy on how to keep the other teams off the board.
“Our best defense is our offense,” he said. “We run the straight-T. Try to grind it out and take time off the clock.
“Our game plan is to grind it out and frustrate their defense. We usually have a decent running game. We’ll try to get it into the end zone as much as we can.”
His defense will see a mix of strategies.
“We run a 5-2 on defense, but we’ll switch it out of that depending on who we’re playing,” said Shields. “It’s a defense where your defensive end has to be a good defender; he has to contain. We have to have some good linebackers, too.”
In helping him with his defense, Shields said he’s been fortunate to have Ian Braun in his corner.
“When I took over nine years ago, he was the head coach at Old Town for a few years,” he said. “He and I have been together since day one. He runs my defense for me.
“I think I’ve learned more football from him then he’ll ever learn from me.”
The Trojans kick off their season at Waterville at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
2010 results: 4-5, lost in Eastern Class B Quarterfinals
Head coach: Mark Shields, ninth year
Key players: Jayson Burke, HB, Sr.; Donny Hanson, QB-S, Sr.; Elias Burne, FB-MLB, Sr.; Lucas Murphy, C-DT, Sr.; Cameron Crawford, HB-SS, Sr.
Outlook: Returning seniors will be key if the Trojans expect to return to the postseason. They will have to perform on the field and demonstrate leadership in order to get the most out of their inexperienced teammates. Coach Shields is used to the challenge, and with same group of coaches around him, he should be able to produce a record good enough to make it to the playoffs.