NEWPORT, Maine — Haggie Pratt knows there are a lot of good athletes at Nokomis Regional High School.
Now in his sixth season heading the Warriors’ varsity program, he continues to work toward building more of a football culture in the area.
With a balanced group of 38 players in the fold, Nokomis hopes to demonstrate growth this season in the Pine Tree Conference Class B division.
The Warriors, who dropped their opener 34-27 at Oceanside of Rockland, are relying on a handful of seniors and several underclassmen to lead the way.
“I think we can be competitive this year, but we can’t have injuries or other things,” Pratt said. “We’ve got to get our best kids out on the field.”
Nokomis features a returning All-PTC performer in senior two-way lineman Josh Philbrook. However, the second-team defensive choice’s season is in question after he suffered a burst appendix.
“He’s our right tackle and we’re playing him at linebacker this year,” Pratt said. “He’s one of our best tacklers.”
Philbrook is among nine seniors, a group that includes quarterback and defensive back Chandler Foss. He played as a freshman, then did not compete the last two seasons.
Now, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder is a key cog in the offense. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the opener.
“He’s got a strong arm and we’re pretty high on the things that he can do,” Pratt said.
Recruiting and retaining skilled players is increasingly important as Nokomis moves beyond what Pratt called the club football mentality.
“There’s some really good athletes in the school that aren’t playing a sport this fall, but if we can keep them coming back, we’re going to be a factor,” Pratt said.
The Warriors have weapons in the backfield. Mainstays include sophomore tailback Noah Kershner and senior tailback Drew Wing, a four-year letterman who recently returned from boot camp, along with sophomore wide receiver Josh King, who caught three TD passes in the opener, and senior fullback Devin Bussell.
“We can mix it up and keep teams off-balance,” said Pratt, who mentioned junior Jeff Walker as an important piece of the puzzle as a two-way lineman.
The defense is being directed by first-year assistant coach Carl Parker, a former University of Maine football player who coaches Nokomis’ boys basketball team.
“He’s great at motivating the kids and he gets the most out of of them,” Pratt said. “He’s made a big difference in the attitude of the kids.”
Defensive leaders include junior linebackers Zach McFarlin and Walker and junior end Rusty Wilson. Sophomore Jacob Nichols, who is playing with a broken wrist, gives the team a 6-4, 250-pounder on the line, while Foss patrols the secondary.
Pratt is optimistic Nokomis can continue to elevate its level of play.
“We had a really good freshman team last year and a lot of those guys are contributing as starters or [are] getting a lot of playing time. I really feel good about the future,” Pratt said.
2011 results: 2-6, 10th PTC Class B
Head coach: Haggie Pratt, 6th year
Key players: Josh Philbrook, OT-LB, Sr.; Chandler Foss, QB-DB, Sr.; Noah Kershner, TB, Soph.; Sr.; Drew Wing, TB, Sr.; Josh King, WR, Soph.; OL-DL, Jeff Walker, Jr.; Devin Bussell, FB, Sr.; Zach McFarlin, LB, Jr.; Rusty Wilson, LB, Jr.; Jacob Nichols, OG-DT, Soph.;
Outlook: The Warriors won their last two games in 2011 and hope to build off that late-season success. Nokomis looks to establish a winning mentality behind a group that blends experience and youth. The development of young players is critical.