Brewer football team faces next step on road to respectability

Posted Oct. 13, 2011, at 1:59 p.m.

Players on the Brewer football team sat down last August and did what most teams do during preseason — they wrote down goals for the coming season.

What resulted were often the most modest of expectations, hopes worn down by four years of futility as one of the smallest schools in the big-school world of Class A.

“Two kids said they just wanted to win a game,” said Brewer coach Don Farnham. “I kind of laughed a little that they set the bar so low, but the truth is that’s where we were. We had seniors coming into the season who had never won a home game.”

Two months later, the Witches are in a vastly different place. Not only are they now one of the bigger schools in the not-quite-as-big-school world of Class B football, they’re winning games at a pace not seen at Doyle Field since 2005, when in an earlier incarnation as a Class B program Brewer won a state championship.

And while the team is not predicted to reach those heights this fall, a 5-1 record, a five-game winning streak and a 3-0 record at home have combined to boost morale not only throughout the team, but well beyond.

“It’s been good for the program, it’s been good for the school — there’s a great atmosphere in the hallways — and it’s been good for the community,” said Farnham.

The differences between then and now are not confined to such good vibrations. While Farnham resorted to a conservative double-wing offense during the Class A days in an effort to give his players a chance to compete with the big guys, the return to Class B corresponded with Farnham’s decision to switch to a more wide-open spread offense designed not to hide weaknesses but to capitalize on athletic strengths.

The “pistol” formation has produced nearly 30 points per game, 34.4 points an outing during the current winning streak.

The move back to Class B also has sparked an influx of new players who had experienced success in other sports — most notably ice hockey — but in recent years had opted out of the week-to-week pounding perceived to be inevitable when challenging the state’s largest football schools.

Now comes the question of what constitutes a success season for these new-look Witches. Their current winning streak admittedly has come against the weakest Pine Tree Conference Class B teams — teams with a combined record of 6-24.

The final two weeks of regular-season play will be more challenging, with a home game Friday against 4-2 Waterville and a road trip to neighboring Hampden Academy, a team that consistently has ranked among the division’s upper crust during Harry McCluskey’s coaching tenure.

Brewer won’t be the favorite in either contest, but a win in either game could land the Witches a home playoff game.

“We’ve got a couple of tough ones ahead, but we’re going into them with some confidence,” said Farnham. “The kids are finally getting used to winning.”

No matter what, there will be postseason play in the team’s immediate future.

“I don’t know if we’re one of the haves or the have-nots, that’s still ahead of us,” said Farnham. “We’re just trying to get by, and the kids have stayed humble. They know what some of the other teams are going through because we’ve been there.

“We’re in playoff mode now, though, we’re thinking that every game is a playoff for us. But no matter what we’ve still had a tremendous turnaround.”

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