Jeremy Marks is fully aware of the winning athletic tradition at Camden Hills Regional High School.

“Camden Hills has such a steep history with sports and with success in many different sports,” said Marks, the director of counseling at the Rockport school. “We won a state championship in every sports season last year.”

Marks now hopes to use that upbeat atmosphere in his new capacity as head coach of the Windjammers’ struggling football program.

Camden Hills has won just six of its 52 games since joining the varsity ranks in 2009, with four of those victories coming during the Windjammers’ lone playoff year in 2010.

The program reached its nadir in 2015 when school officials cancelled the remainder of the season after an 0-3 start when injuries left the roster dangerously thin of experienced players.

A community-wide conversation led to the restoration of the program at the subvarsity level in 2016, and this fall Camden Hills will compete in the newly formed Class E varsity division comprised of six schools from around the state seeking to redevelop the sport.

“We’re realistic in the sense that we have a lot of teaching and learning to do,” said Marks, “but we’re excited about the commitment the players are showing toward that growth process and understanding that their role is going to be one of legacy, of setting a new standard with regard to our football program here at the high school.”

Making that challenge seemingly more daunting is the success of many of the school’s other sports, including the soccer program that shares Don Palmer Field with the footballers.

“This high school is very strong in soccer and that’s good because it lets our players know that’s the level we’ve got to get to,” said Marks. “At the same time we’ve got to have patience. We want to be able to teach these boys how to play the game the right way and establish ourselves as positive role models within the community as well as in the high school.”

Marks, a New York City native, played prep football at South Kent (Connecticut) School, then attended Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, on a full athletic scholarship as a rower.

After college Marks returned to football, playing five years as a tight end and linebacker at the semi-professional level on Long Island, New York.

He moved to Maine’s midcoast four years ago to take a job at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, and since then has been involved as an assistant coach with the Lincoln County club team, at Morse High School in Bath, and at Camden Hills, initially as an assistant last year under former head coach Archie Stalcup.

“We’re going to do a lot working off what coach Stalcup started last year in the reboot of the program,” said Marks.

Marks and his staff currently are conducting summer workouts as well as leading the team in seven-on-seven round robins with neighboring schools.

He hopes to have nearly 40 players on hand when official preseason workouts begin Aug. 14, including 23 veterans who have indicated an interest in returning this fall and 16 freshman up from the local Five Town Football youth program.

“We’ll be heavily laden with freshmen and sophomores, but we’ve got some exceptional athletes among our rising juniors as well,” Marks said. “We’re excited for the potential of this year, but we also understand that it’s going to be a learning experience for a lot of our players in realizing what it takes to play high school football at an exceptional level.”

The Windjammers will be joined in Class E by Boothbay, Maranacook of Readfield, Sacopee Valley of South Hiram, Telstar of Bethel and Traip Academy of Kittery.

“I couldn’t ask for a better scenario in the sense that we’ll have the opportunity to get some varsity competition at a level that allows us to still have some success,” said Marks, whose team will begin its regular season at Maranacook on Sept. 1 before playing its home opener against Boothbay on Sept. 9.

“I’m not too worried about wins and losses. We want to win more than we lose, but we’re more concerned about establishing a culture and having positive experiences so young players on the team can feel excited and committed and then we can grow from there and utilize Five Town Football to build the program moving forward.“

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...