DEXTER, Maine — The Dexter High football team struggled last year, going 1-7 in the Class C LTC, but first-year coach Kevin Armstrong is encouraged by the turnout and the players’ upbeat attitude.
“Last year was a struggle for all the kids on the team, and I’ve seen a few that didn’t come back out,” said Armstrong. “And I can completely understand that. … But we implemented a summer lifting and speed training program and during that time we developed a lot of team chemistry.”
The success of the summer program was a harbinger for the preseason practices.
“We averaged 28 kids a day during the summer session. The kids had a lot of fun and we were able to get a lot of things accomplished,” Armstrong said.
By Wednesday of last week, 47 players were in camp.
“I’m expecting that will grow as time goes,” he said. “The last time I checked, our enrollment was about 290, so to have 47 kids who are also good, athletic football players on the team is exciting.”
The excitement on a football field tends to start in a team’s offensive backfield and the Tigers will feature a power run game with senior Mike Poulin at quarterback.
“Poulin, an excellent athlete and excellent student, is one of the key components of our offense,” Armstrong said. “He’s one of the perfect type of leaders.”
One of Poulin’s backfield mates is senior halfback Andrew Levensalor.
“He’s an exceptional athlete,” said Armstrong, who was Levensalor’s wrestling coach. “I know what he’s capable of doing.”
A third key member of the offense is senior left guard AJ McLaughlin.
“He’s just an exceptional leader,” said Armstrong. “Those three are our captains.”
Armstrong said the line must work well in order for the Tigers to succeed.
“You need those front five up there to do their job,” he said, “and if they don’t, it doesn’t matter who you have back there. If they do [their job], they’ll make an average player look exceptional.”
Joining McLaughlin will be senior left tackle Cole Campbell, junior center Chris King, junior right guard Kyle Lockhart and senior right tackle Carl Snow.
“[King] can really own that spot on the line, he’s really physical,” said Armstrong.
The defensive formation may appear a little odd at first.
“We’re going with a 4-2-5 defense. We’ll be running multiple coverages,” said Armstrong. “We’re going to be a very aggressive defense. There’s not a lot of sitting and waiting. There’s a lot of pressure applied on the offenses.”
Technically, the Tigers will have five defensive backs, but a couple of them will have multiple roles that will depend on the defensive formation called.
“As long as everyone does their assignment, just as we do on offense, I think the scheme will be very effective,” said Armstrong.
“We’ve got a pretty aggressive group of boys on the field this year,” he said. “They’re excited to hit, they’re excited to do their job. We’ll see how it all pans out.”
One of the prime hitters is senior defensive end Malcolm Mitchell, who also plays fullback.
“He’s the type of player that, on any single play, can make a hit on offense or defense and completely pick up the intensity of the game,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong likes junior Trevor Fogarty at defensive back.
“He’s one of the best athletes in our school system, very smart, another great leader,” Armstrong said, and also pointed to senior defensive tackle Anthony Domenech and senior free safety Brandon Spratt.
Armstrong has high hopes for the Tigers to be improved this year.
“There’s just a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy surrounding this football team,” he said.
Dexter opened with a 20-6 victory over Hermon Friday night.
2011 results: 1-7 in LTC Class C
Head coach: Kevin Armstrong, 2nd year
Key players: Mike Poulin, QB-DB, Sr., Capt.; Andrew Levensalor, HB-DB, Sr., Capt.; A.J. McLaughlin, LG-LB, Sr.; Chris King, C-LB, Jr.; Kyle Lockhart, RG-DT, Jr.; Carl Snow, RT-DT, Sr.; Cole Campbell, LT, Sr.; Malcolm Mitchell, DE-FB, Sr.; Trevor Fogarty, DB-QB, Jr.; Anthony Domenech, DT, Sr.; Brandon Spratt, FS, Sr.
Outlook: The Tigers will be senior-laden among the starters. Poulin was 19-for-25 passing for 315 yards and two touchdowns, while Levensalor ran 99 times for 391 yards and four TDs and caught 23 passes for 376 and four TDs. Levensalor also led Dexter with 38 tackles, two sacks and an interception. If the Tigers get better at their base skills of blocking and tackling and understanding of what the coaches want, Armstrong thinks they’ll do OK. He believes they could struggle at certain times, but for the most part, he expects the Tigers to compete in every game.