NEWPORT, Maine — As Jake Rogers drove from his day job as a bovine podiatrist in central Maine to the beginning of summer workouts at his new post as head football coach at Nokomis Regional High School earlier this week, there was considerable enthusiasm in his voice.
“I really got the itch back around 2010, I just knew it was something I wanted to do,” said the 35-year-old Rogers of his first opportunity to lead his own football program.
Rogers replaces Matt O’Connell, who resigned after the 2016 season, his fourth as head coach and the Warriors’ second straight winless campaign.
“What stood out with Jake was his enthusiasm for the sport, his organization and his experience with a good program,” said Nokomis athletic administrator Mark Babin of Rogers, a longtime assistant coach at Lawrence of Fairfield.
Rogers was a two-way lineman under head coach Pete Cooper on the Bulldogs’ 1996 Pine Tree Conference championship team, then played two more seasons at Lawrence under Brad Bishop, now head coach at Messalonskee of Oakland.
Rogers began his coaching career in 2001 with the seventh-grade team in Fairfield, then moved up to the Lawrence staff a year later.
Rogers has worked under Lawrence head coach John Hersom since 2004, helping the Bulldogs win four regional championships along with the 2006 Class A state title.
“John was great to coach with,” said Rogers. “He took a lot of input, he wasn’t a pure dictator when it came to that. Everybody had an opinion and it was a pretty open-door thing so if you felt there was a better way to do it he was all ears. I really anticipate trying to be the same way and allowing everyone to voice any opinion they have.”
Rogers cited Cooper and former Lawrence assistant Mike Mealey among his additional football influences.
“They’ve all instilled in me about the same thing, that hard work pays off and you’ve got to be determined to be good at something,” he said.
Rogers will inherit a veteran coaching staff, including all three returning assistants from Nokomis as well as another assistant he’s bringing with him from Lawrence.
And don’t be surprised if the new Nokomis football philosophy includes many similarities to the style of play familiar to Lawrence fans over the last 25 years.
“We are going to play very fast on defense, very disciplined with no guessing,” Rogers said. “It’s know your assignment and go, defense first, and then we’re going to run the ball on offense and be efficient.
“We’re going to do what we have to do to put points on the board, but I’m preaching defense and technique first.”
Nokomis, 0-16 over the last two years in Class B North, moves to Class C North by enrollment for at least the next two years.
Despite that change, Rogers anticipates facing a formidable schedule due to the depth of the 10-team Big 10 Conference, which includes reigning Class D state champion Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, defending Class C North champion Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor and perennial power Winslow.
“This new league because of its mixture of old B teams and old D teams is going to be from top to bottom a very competitive league,” said Rogers, whose team opens its regular season at Class B Hampden Academy and MCI before playing its home opener on Sept. 16 against Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston.
No matter the competition, Rogers’ immediate goal at Nokomis involves instilling confidence throughout the program.
“They’ve got a lot of pieces in place here already,” he said. “They’ve got a very good boosters program, there seems to be quite a bit of support within the school and there seems to be a strong want for success. My goal is to give it to them.”