NEWPORT — There were a few reminders of the past, a pair or two of black and orange cleats and an occasional orange chin strap recalling the colors of the former Rockland District High School.
But Saturday afternoon’s debut of the Oceanside football team was more about the first step in building a new tradition along the Midcoast, as for the first time players from the consolidated Rockland and Georges Valley of Thomaston high schools combined forces in their newly minted two-tone blue and white uniforms.
And while they faced considerable adversity along the way — committing three first-half turnovers and being a yard from falling behind by two touchdowns at the outset of the fourth quarter — the Mariners rallied for a 23-14 Pine Tree Conference Class B victory over the Nokomis Warriors.
“It feels great to have a first win in the first game, to start 1-0,” said two-way lineman David Harrison, who with Seth Batty are the lone seniors on the Oceanside roster. “It’s good to have the Georges Valley kids join us, a big help. School-wise, everyone’s getting along, and this win’s an incredible feeling to start out with.”
Junior halfback Dan Stone rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns for the Mariners, while junior quarterback Sam Meklin completed 12 of 24 passes for 163 yards amid hot, humid conditions that wore down both squads.
“The heat was a big factor,” said Stone. “I can’t thank coach enough for the conditioning. I hate doing it in practice but in games like this it was a big factor.”
And while Oceanside players celebrated their history-making victory, there also was some relief for surviving a game that nearly got away.
After a fake punt run by the Mariners came up 3 yards short of a first down to give Nokomis the ball at the Oceanside 33 late in the third quarter, the Warriors drove to a first-and-goal at the 1 on the final play of the third quarter already armed with a 14-7 lead.
But a fumbled snap from center on the next play was recovered and run out of the end zone by Oceanside’s Eli McDougal, and a Nokomis foray to the Mariners’ 30 on its next possession was thwarted by another fumble, this one recovered by Oceanside’s Garrett Burns.
The Mariners then drove 73 yards in five plays to take a 15-14 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion run by Stone — the score set up by a 38-yard pass from Meklin to Matt Zable.
“I was a little worried,” said Meklin. “I know the whole team was. We got a little lucky, but that happens.”
Dan Hendricks added to the lead with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown with 23.6 seconds left.
“Coach stuck me back at safety from linebacker and I just watched the quarterback,” said Hendricks, who also had five pass receptions for 60 yards. “I watched his eyes and made a lucky guess and he threw it right to me. I had a lot of good up-field blocking and scored a touchdown.”
Nokomis, which committed four second-half turnovers, capitalized on a Jake Nichols fumble recovery at the Oceanside 21 to take a 6-0 first-quarter lead.
Austin Chipman scored seven plays later on a 1-yard run.
Stone scored the first touchdown in Oceanside history with 8:37 left in the third quarter on a 3-yard run. That was set up by a Nokomis fumble that was recovered by Harrison at the Warriors’ 43 and followed two plays later by Stone’s 31-yard run to the Nokomis 3.
Harrison’s extra-point kick gave Oceanside a 7-6 lead.
Nokomis countered on its next possession, as quarterback Nate Michaud found Cody Pelletier open behind two defenders down the right sideline for a 63-yard touchdown pass, and Pelletier added the two-point run to give the Warriors a 14-7 lead with 7:44 left in the third quarter.
Chipman gained 71 rushing yards on 20 carries, while Michaud completed 7 of 14 passes for 161 yards.
“The fumble at the 1 was absolutely huge, but that’s football,” said Oceanside coach Woody Moore. “We had our share in the first half and they capitalized, and the nice thing is when you have all that adversity in the first half and still have guys who are willing to come out and do the little things for their teammates to get it done.
“Hopefully the kids learned that as long as there’s time on the clock you keep playing because you never know what will happen. The ball bounces funny sometimes.”
Oceanside (1-0) 0 0 7 16 — 23
Nokomis (0-1) 6 0 8 0 — 14
N — Chipman 1 run (pass failed)
O — Stone 3 run (Harrison kick)
N — Pelletier 63 pass from Michaud (Pelletier rush)
O — Stone 2 run (Stone rush)
O — Hendricks 46 interception return (Stone rush)