BANGOR — Some high school football teams can rebuild quietly, not pressured by the expectation game until those newcomers to the varsity scene have gained the experience necessary to overcome any youthful mistakes.
Some teams — but not Bangor High School.
Coach Mark Hackett’s club is coming off back-to-back Eastern Maine Class A championship seasons, and while this year’s team is much different — with just 12 seniors on the roster — the Rams expect to remain a major factor in what should be a congested Pine Tree Conference playoff chase.
“There are a lot of guys playing who haven’t had a lot of playing time, but they’re good football players,” said Hackett. “It’s just how quick are they going to grow, so when it’s fourth down and 1 are they going to get it or is the other team’s experience going to let them get it. I think it’s going to come down to those kinds of things.”
Making the challenge more difficult for Bangor and its PTC Class A rivals is that the league has been reduced from 12 teams to 10 with Mt. Blue of Farmington and Brewer dropping to Class B, and as a result the regional postseason field has been cut even more dramatically, from eight teams to four.
“It just means we have to work that much harder this year,” said senior captain Nick Sherwood. “Last year it was easier to get into the playoffs, especially since we were one of the better teams in our conference. This year it’s not going to be easy, so we have to step it up in practice every day. We really have to want it this year.”
While such recent stars as quarterback Joe Seccareccia (Southern Connecticut State) and tailback Josiah Hartley (Maine) have now graduated to the collegiate ranks, Hackett is optimistic about both the quality and depth of those who will take over such roles.
Junior Carl Farnham, one of the team’s fastest players, steps in at quarterback to run Bangor’s combination of the wing-T and power-I formations.
“The big thing for me is just basically coming in and doing what I have to do to help the team win,” said Farnham, who also returns as the team’s placekicker. “Joey was here for three years and those are big shoes to fill, but collectively as a team we have the skills to do it.”
Senior captain Wyatt Frost will play wingback, with junior Zeb Tuell at tailback, juniors Cody Chapman and Cain Corkum at fullback, senior captain Ellis Throckmorton at tight end and Sherwood at split end.
“I think we’re very dynamic and very balanced,” said Hackett. “We have the prototype guys. The fullbacks are fullbacks. We don’t have a fullback or end running at tailback, we have tailbacks playing tailback and the ends are ends. They’re all appropriately placed in their positions, so I think we can be dynamic and very diverse. I don’t think it’s going be one guy carrying the ball 30 times. It might be, but it doesn’t have to be. We have a lot of talent.”
One area of experience for the Rams will be along the line of scrimmage, with junior Brandon Vang and seniors Aaron Huntingdon and Elijah Hughes among those leaders in the trenches.
Defensive catalysts will include Chapman and Throckmorton at linebacker, Corkum at nose guard, senior captain Justin Scripture at end and Frost, Tuell and Sherwood in the backfield.
“The defense is coming along,” said Throckmorton. “We have to work a little on trusting each other, we’ve got to play as a group, and once we play as a unit I think we’ll end up doing pretty well.”
Bangor will be tested immediately, opening the season against Brunswick, Lawrence of Fairfield and Edward Little of Auburn, all opponents expected to challenge for the available playoff berths.
“With our schedule this year, buckle up because it’s rough,” said Hackett. “We could very easily start with our losses up front, and I hope the senior leadership is as good as I think it is because if we can overcome adversity wherever it comes on the schedule, I think we can be a good football team at the other end.
“But if we struggle at first and we as coaches and players can’t come together, then it’s going to be a rough season. But I don’t anticipate that. This is a refreshing group, we’ve had absolutely no issues.”
2010 results: 10-2, Eastern Maine Class A champion
Head coach: Mark Hackett, 11th year
Key players: Wyatt Frost, WB-DB, Sr., Capt.; Justin Scripture, QB-DE, Sr., Capt.; Nick Sherwood, SE-DB, Sr., Capt.; Ellis Throckmorton, TE-LB, Sr., Capt.; Carl Farnham, QB-DB, Jr.; Zeb Tuell, TB-DB, Jr.; Cody Chapman, FB-LB, Jr.; Cain Corkum, FB-NG, Jr.; Elijah Hughes, OT-DT, Sr.; Aaron Huntington, OT-DT, So.; Greg Duff, OG-DT, Jr.; Brandon Vang, OG, DT, Jr.
Outlook: With a roster heavily reliant on younger players, this Bangor team has great potential for being much better come playoff time than it is at the beginning of the season. They key is for the Rams to hold their own early, and that won’t be easy. Bangor opens at Brunswick before hosting Lawrence of Fairfield in Week 2, and with just four teams qualifying for the playoffs in Eastern A this year the Rams can’t afford many early defeats.