BREWER — The last four years in the Class A ranks produced just four victories for the Brewer High School football team.
But newly reclassified to the Pine Tree Conference Class B ranks, the Witches have new optimism as they prepare for the 2011 season.
“Last year we definitely faced some mismatches in different positions,” said Brewer senior captain Anthony Jackson, “so dropping down to Class B is definitely an opportunity that we need to take advantage of because we’ll be better matched up in those positions and we can definitely win some games.”
The move to Class B already has helped the Witches on some fronts, among them a deeper roster.
“I think we’ve had some more kids come out this year because we’ve dropped down to Class B,” said senior captain Marcus Eaton, “and that’s given us more depth.”
While Brewer adjusts to a new class and new schedule, it will do so with a new offense and defense.
The Witches are switching from the double-wing offense to the “pistol,” a spread set designed to capitalize on the team’s athleticism among its backs and receivers.
“One thing Brewer’s always had is skill kids,” said head coach Don Farnham. “In the past we were thinking that against Class A teams that we didn’t match up well against we were going to try to keep things tight because we might not have matched up well in space. Now that we’re in Class B, we feel we should be able to match up in all aspects.”
It’s a change that has been greeted warmly by the team’s most veteran players.
“The double wing was a lot more confined,” said Jackson. “If there wasn’t a hole there, it wasn’t there. But with the spread there’s a lot more opportunities for us to actually find the holes, so it’s a lot better suited to our personnel.”
The spread offense also should enable Brewer to generate more balance between its rushing and passing attacks.
“I like it a lot better,” said senior captain Nate Morris. “It’s more wide open, and there’s more chances for fullbacks and tight ends to get involved more and catch some passes.”
Defensively the Witches will change from a 5-2 set to a 4-3 alignment.
“Last year we let up a lot of big plays,” said Jackson, “but this year with the 4-3 and two safeties back we should not allow as many big plays.”
Perhaps one of the bigger challenges facing Brewer at least early in the season will have less to do with physical play on the field but with self-confidence after four sub-.500 seasons in Class A.
“As a coaching staff we’re trying to get in the kids’ heads to erase the last four years of losing, but to be honest last year there were a couple games that as coaches we thought we could win but I don’t think the kids bought into it,” said Farnham.
“We’ve been talking to the kids from December on about playing hard and getting after it but not really using the word ‘winning.’ I think in high school you can’t turn into Vince Lombardi and talk about ‘winning is everything,’ but as a head coach at the high school level you should demand that kids give a winning effort and then translate that into a winning effort in the classroom and everything else they have going.
“We’ve been really pushing that all summer, and now it’s just a matter of playing a game and winning it, or coming from behind and winning it. Winning in different situations is what we lack right now, but we’re anxious to start the season whether it’s Class A or Class B.”
2010 results: 0-8 in Pine Tree Conference Class A
Head coach: Don Farnham, 6th year
Key players: Nate Morris, WR-LB, Sr., Capt.; Anthony Jackson, TB-DB-KR, Sr., Capt.; Marcus Eaton, OL-DL, Sr., Capt.; Dylan Smith, RB-DB, Jr.; Brodie Valley, RB-DB, Jr.; Chris Miller, QB, Jr.; Adam Cossette, QB-DB, Sr.; Shane McLaughlin, OL-DL, Sr.
Outlook: The move to Class B should help restore some stability to a Brewer program that went just 4-28 during its latest four-year stint in Class A. Several players who left the program during the Class A doldrums have returned to give the Witches more athleticism, and the switch from a double-wing offense to a “pistol” spread formation also has generated enthusiasm. It won’t be an overnight transition from a struggling Class A program to a Class B contender — particularly with the first game of the season at preseason favorite Mt. Blue of Farmington, another former Class A school — but there’s reason for optimism within the Brewer camp.