ORONO, Maine — Not so long ago the Orono high school football team was an afterthought among the LTC ranks.
After collecting a combined five wins during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Red Riots finally broke through last year with a 7-1 regular season and a trip to the LTC title game.
Though Orono lost in the final to Bucksport, the end result was overshadowed by the renewed commitment and overall improvement the Red Riots players had put forth to create such a quick turnaround.
Coach Bob Sinclair explained the coaches played a small role.
“It’s not like these kids have shown up and done nothing, as they worked for this success.” said Sinclair. “I’m the same coach that was here when they were 1-7 just a few years back and we are doing the same things now that we did then, so we are pretty blessed to have these type of players.”
Sinclair has seen the same type of work ethic through offseason workouts this year and is optimistic that the team will come in as hungry as ever after coming up short last season.
“Our kids felt like they were very close and we felt we could’ve gotten it done, but Bucksport just had our number,” Sinclair said. “We came back pretty well though and got right back to work starting in the winter and into the summer, so we are anxious to get going.”
Sinclair has a lot to look forward to with much of last year’s squad returning, including junior running backs and brothers Cameron and Christian Mowrer leading the offense.
Christian is coming off a 1,000-yard season, while Cameron contributed 600 yards from the fullback position.
Christian Mowrer and senior Norton Revell will man halfback spots with Cameron Mowrer returning to fullback to round out a strong running attack.
Sinclair praised the work of Revell in the offseason and his ability to step into a big void left by graduated back Dominic Mowrer.
“He is an incredible athlete that has lost some weight during his transition to halfback and will be a key contributor for us this year,” Sinclair said.
The running game will hinge on the play of an offensive line that will be anchored by senior tackles Jack Lucy and Zach Landean, both of whom Sinclair expects will take on bigger leadership roles.
Sinclair makes it no secret that his offense is very run heavy, but opponents have still yet to find a way to contain the running schemes.
“We tweak a few things every year, but with such a talented backfield we aren’t going to miss a beat from last year,” Sinclair said.
On the defensive side, the Red Riots switched to a 5-2 alignment that made the defense more “stingy” according to Sinclair.
“We switched things up from our traditional 5-3 and it has suited us really well,” Sinclair added.
The on-going adjustment to the alignment will be aided by a returning core of players up front and in the secondary, while additions like junior linebacker Collin Clement will strengthen the few voids.
Sinclair has already heard chatter among his boys of where they want to be at the end of the year.
“They want to win a gold ball,” Sinclair said. “They have set that as a goal for themselves and it isn’t always realistic, but I think this year it is.”
“Whether or not we can accomplish that remains to be seen, but we aren’t afraid to put it out there as a goal and we will give it our best shot here,” Sinclair added.
Orono opened with a 58-8 victory over Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield Friday night.
ORONO RED RIOTS
2011 Finish: 9-2, lost in LTC final to Bucksport
Coach/year: Bob Sinclair/9th
Key Players: Cameron Mowrer, FB-LB, Jr.; Christian Mowrer, HB-DE, Jr.; Norton Revell, HB-LB, Sr.; Chad Orn, QB-S, Sr.; Jack Lucy, OT-DT, Sr.; Zach Landean, OT-DT, Sr.; Collin Clement, LB, Jr.; Justin Szeker, S, Sr.; Tyler Pinkham, NG-OL, Jr.
Outlook: The Red Riots seemed primed for another championship run. The running game will not miss a beat with the Mowrer brothers and the added power running of Revell, while the passing game will fall into place as new quarterback Orn gets comfortable. Orn’s comfort and the success of the running game will also depend upon the blocking of a veteran offensive line with high expectations. With a full year of the 5-2 defense under its belt, Orono will be able to utilize its returning core on the front five and secondary to prevent any offensive outbursts and make life easier for its offense.