ROCKLAND — A few things are the same, such as Wasgatt Field where the home games will be played, and Woody Moore, who is beginning his fifth year as the program’s head coach.
But almost everything else is different for high school football in this Midcoast community. The Rockland Tiger has evolved into the Oceanside Mariner, the result of the consolidation of Rockland District High School and neighboring Georges Valley High School.
The Orange and Black of Rockland football is now the Navy Blue, Columbia blue and White of Oceanside High School, which includes a West campus at Georges Valley for eighth- and ninth-graders and an East campus at the former Rockland District High School for 10th- through 12th-graders.
And while the Rockland football program competed in the LTC Class C ranks in recent years, the combined enrollment of the two united high schools means Oceanside now will move up to the Pine Tree Conference Class B ranks.
Other than that, it’s just another season with the usual goals.
“We expect to make the playoffs,” said Moore, “and if we can stay healthy make some noise.”
Moore welcomed 42 players to preseason practices, but only five came from Georges Valley, which had a proud schoolboy soccer tradition but no high school football in its history.
That’s been one of the major adjustments, said Moore, “getting players from the old GVHS interested and excited about playing; not to mention new colors, mascot, school name, practice facilities, class and schedule.”
The Mariners’ schedule begins on the road at Nokomis of Newport on Sept. 3, followed by the home opener against Waterville the following Friday night.
And it doesn’t get easier, with a rugged three-game stretch to start the second half of the campaign against 2010 Class A playoff qualifier Mt. Blue of Farmington followed by traditional power Gardiner and two-time defending conference champion Leavitt of Turner.
The Mariners will take on those challenges with a group of talented backs and receivers led by junior quarterback-defensive end Sam Meklin, who last year passed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns.
“Sam makes great decisions, has a very good arm and is developing into a great leader,” Moore said. Other offensive keys will include junior wide receiver Dan Hendricks, who last year led the LTC Class C in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns — as well as solo tackles from his linebacker slot defensively — and senior tight end-defensive end David Harrison,.
“David is a great blocker, great defender, very fast, very tough, and is the team’s vocal and on-field leader,” Moore said.
2010 results: 4-4 in LTC as Rockland District High School
Head coach: Woody Moore, 5th year
Key players: Sam Meklin, QB-DE, Jr., Capt.; Dan Hendricks, WR-DB, Jr., Capt.; David Harrison, TE-DE, Sr., Capt.; Seth Batty, G-DT, Sr., Capt.; Dan Stone, RB-DB, Jr.; Travis Stone, FB-LB-K, Jr.
Outlook: So much about this team is new, but a solid nucleus of skill-position players and what Moore describes as a competitive defense will give the Mariners the chance to get off to a quick start this season in the expanded, 14-team PTC Class B. And Oceanside will need a quick start in order to maintain its hopes for a playoff berth, because the second half of the schedule is as tough as it gets in the league this season.