ORONO, Maine — The Orono High School football team rekindled memories of championship runs past last fall, riding a punishing running game and stout defense to the program’s first trip to the LTC title game in 15 years.
Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist Dominic Mowrer has graduated and now is at Husson University in Bangor, but twin brothers Christian and Cameron Mowrer are both back and poised to help the Red Riots attempt to advance even further than a year ago, when Bucksport defeated Orono 25-14 to reach the Class C state final.
“Last year they got into a rhythm and everything started to click,” said Foxcroft Academy coach Danny White. “If a team starts playing well early, then look out because as the season goes along because the kids gain more confidence in their abilities and the sky’s the limit.
“That’s what happened with Orono last year, and they’re set up this year to be the same type of high-scoring team.”
Juniors Christian Mowrer, a tailback who gained more than 1,000 yards for Orono’s 9-2 team a year ago, and Cameron Mowrer, a fullback, will team with senior Norton Revell to give coach Bob Sinclair’s club a deep rushing tandem again this fall, while seniors Jack Lucy and Zac Landean anchor the Red Riots’ play along the line of scrimmage.
“And the experience they got last year in coming up 11 points short of being in the state title game will help them,” said John Bapst of Bangor coach Dan O’Connell.
Foxcroft, John Bapst and Bucksport should join Orono as top contenders to represent Eastern Maine Class C in the state championship game at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium come Nov. 17.
Foxcroft, which lost to Bucksport in last year’s semifinals, has plenty of skill-position firepower of its own led by running back Donnie Boyer and wide receiver Ryan Rebar. And while the Ponies need a new starting quarterback, both contenders for the job during preseason, Hunter Law and Kaleb Smith, both have championship-style experience — Law as a state wrestling champion and Smith having pitched in the Class B baseball state final last spring.
“Foxcroft didn’t lose a whole lot of seniors,” said Mattanawcook Academy coach Dave Hainer. “They have several starters back on the line and with Boyer at running back and Rebar at wide receiver they’ve got some playmakers.
“Their freshman class last year was also very talented, and as sophomores this year they can develop into solid role players.”
Bucksport graduated 18 seniors from the 2011 team that went undefeated until falling to Yarmouth in the state final, but coach Joel Sankey’s Golden Bucks boast a solid returning nucleus.
Two-way senior end Mitchell Burgess and junior tailback-linebacker Nic Bishop are among the top players back, while junior Josh Gray provides sophomore quarterback Matt Stewart a speedy receiving threat and senior Jimmy Osgood heads up the line play.
“Bucksport was undefeated last year and they probably lost more people than anybody,” said Hainer, “but with them they’ll probably just reload.”
John Bapst graduated two-way end Max Andrews to the Division I football world at the University of Maine, but the Crusaders return plenty of outside speed with the likes of Brad DeCesere, Andrew Catlin and Jake Moore.
Bapst had four quarterbacks contending to replace the graduated Deven Romain during preseason, one from each class including senior Shawn Curran, a top outfielder on the school’s baseball team last spring who is new to high school football, and junior Austin Spencer, last year’s backup.
“We’re a work in progress,” said O’Connell.
Mount View of Thorndike emerged as a contending team last fall, with its best-ever season as a varsity program earning the Mustangs a first-round home game for the playoffs and a berth in the LTC quarterfinals.
Coach Jack Brady’s club graduated 14 seniors, but optimism still abounds because of returning strength along the line of scrimmage as well as the fact the team will be playing its home games on campus for the first time this fall.
Stearns of Millinocket has a core of returning skill players that includes quarterback Mark Lyons, Jordan Morrow, Tyson Girsa and Riley Whitney from its 2011 playoff team, while another squad seeking upward mobility within the conference is Mattanawcook, which features playmaking junior quarterback Trysten Pelkey and tight end-defensive end Ryan O’Hara.
“We have a lot of guys who got some experience last year so we should be more competitive,” said Hainer, whose team earned the eighth and final LTC playoff berth a year ago. “The thing is that we lost to the best teams by 25 or 30 points last year, so the question is how much of that can we make up.”
Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield is another team that hopes to build on last year’s trip to postseason play, though quarterback Patrick Noonan is one of the few seniors on a roster in which half of the players are freshmen or sophomores.
Washington Academy of East Machias, a second-year varsity program, also hopes to challenge for a playoff berth, while Hermon also is back for its second season of varsity competition and Ellsworth-Sumner enters the varsity ranks for the first time this fall after Calais-Woodland dropped its program.
And Dexter welcomes increased participation numbers and a new head coach in Kevin Armstrong, a former player at the school who has served as a varsity assistant and more recently was the junior high head coach in the Tigers’ system.
“It’s one of those years where there are those perennial powers, some up-and-comers and some teams in the middle that depending on how injuries play out could all be in the mix,” said O’Connell. “I don’t think there’s any clear favorite.”