OLD TOWN, Maine — When Lance Cowan first became an assistant football coach at Old Town High School eight years ago, the program was locked in a battle for survival.
“That first year we were struggling to get 17 kids on the bus for away trips,” he said.
But fortunes have changed considerably for the Coyotes since then as they have for Cowan, who recently was named Old Town’s new head football coach.
Cowan replaces Nick Arthers, who left last month after two seasons to become the new head coach at Brewer High School.
“I’m definitely excited for this,” said Cowan, who served as an assistant coach at Old Town for five years before spending the last two seasons in a similar capacity at Brewer.
Cowan, who works full-time as manager of The Roost in downtown Orono, also is a veteran youth baseball coach, including stints at the middle school and Senior League levels in Old Town and as a Senior League coach in Bangor, where he was an assistant under head coach Ron St. Pierre for the city’s Maine District 3 champion all-star squad that reached the title game of the 2010 Senior League World Series.
Cowan steps back into an Old Town football program that finished 4-4 and advanced to the Eastern Maine Class C playoffs last fall.
“I really sense some excitement among the kids who are back,” he said. “We’re only three days into (offseason workouts), but the morale is up.”
And as for participation numbers, there’s a growing level of stability within the program.
“The numbers are up,” said Cowan. “Now you look around and you see numbers in the medium to upper 30’s and maybe into the 40’s with the incoming freshmen.”
Cowan also hopes to build on the momentum generated by recent renovations made at Victory Field where Old Town plays its home games, as well as from the leadership anticipated from the returning players — several of whom were part of Old Town’s run to the Class B state championship in boys basketball last winter, as well as the Coyotes’ advancement to the Eastern Maine baseball final last month.
“We’ve got a lot of good athletes coming back,” said Cowan, an Orono High School graduate who played a year of football at Husson University. “And we should have good leadership from some players off the state championship basketball team. Hopefully some of that success, as well as the success they had in baseball, will rub off on us.”
Cowan plans to take a balanced approach at Old Town, blending elements of the run-oriented attack used by the Coyotes in recent years with passing-game components he learned while coaching at Brewer.
“We have a lot of skill players we want to take advantage of,” he said. “We’re not going to get away from the core of high school football, which is the power game and running the football down the field, but we want to be versatile enough to do some things to put our athletes in space and allow them to go out and win some games.”
Old Town is scheduled to start its regular season Saturday, Sept. 6, at Camden Hills of Rockport.