RUMFORD – Hearts pounding, blood rushing, the players on Westbrook High’s defense anticipated the first snap of the football of their brave new world. The handoff went to Matt Hosie, who broke through the line and outran everyone 84 yards to the end zone.

Hello and goodbye. By halftime at Chet Bulger Football Field on Friday night, Westbrook was down, 34-0. The final score was 47-7. Afterward, Westbrook’s head coach gathered his players in the shadows of the goal posts, the lights on the smokestacks of the nearby papermill blinking in the background.

“You all have a role in making it better,” said Jeff Guerrette, looking into weary faces. “We’ve got a ton of potential, but we need leaders. It’s a long season and we can turn it around.”

Thanks to declining enrollment, Westbrook left Class A football and familiar opponents Portland, Deering, South Portland and the others. Thanks to declining enthusiasm and numbers on the field, Westbrook also left behind a string of losing seasons.

This is a new chapter. New classification, new schedule, new opponents. First up was Mountain Valley, the perennial Class B champions. But after taking on the Bonny Eagles and the Biddefords of Class A forever, how tough could Mountain Valley be?

A loss of 47-7 is tough, no matter how you count the touchdowns.

Shortly after Hosie scored, Mountain Valley’s Izaak Mills intercepted a Terry Webber pass and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. Then Hosie broke for 73 yards and another score. It was 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Around the field, perceptions were changing by the minute. “Westbrook? Don’t know anything about them,” said Tyler Mason, a Mountain Valley running back on last year’s championship team. He’s a working man now but came back Friday night to watch old teammates that included younger brother Josh.

“They were a Class A team,” said the older Mason. “I thought they’d be bigger.” Better, too.

Westbrook wasn’t bigger in numbers or in size. Guerrette suited up only about 28 players. Maybe a dozen were on the sideline in Westbrook jerseys minus pads, ineligible for any number of reasons.

Others stood on the other side of the rope separating team from spectators. They had decided not to play Westbrook football this season but made the two-hour trip into the Western Maine mountains anyway.

“I’ve always applauded the kids who played. They had a passion to play football,” said Lou Lampron, who has been involved in Westbrook’s youth football program for decades. “We’ve had good athletes but not enough of them.

“I applaud the school for (opting to leave Class A in football). At least now we have a chance to win. It would be nice to have three or four wins this year.”

Some in Westbrook, said Lampron, think the drop to Class B will result in five or six wins. He has too much respect for teams and new opponents like Mountain Valley and Wells and York to believe that.

“I thought we were ready to play when we got off the bus,” said Guerrette. “Some Class B teams might come to Rumford and give them a touchdown before the game begins because they are Mountain Valley. Our kids know what they’ve read or heard about Mountain Valley. But they hadn’t played them.”

Meaning, Mountain Valley was a blank page. No more.

Life is hard here, what with the lack of good jobs. School enrollment continues to shrink. Mountain Valley is down to around 400 and could play in Class C but petitioned to stay in Class B. Pride and success and the challenge will do that.

Matt Kaubris, a former basketball star on Rumford’s great teams of the 1970s tells the story of his home losing its cable television to Irene last weekend.

So the family slipped a DVD into the computer.

Instead of watching Matt Damon or Denzel Washington, they watched again young Matt Kaubris quarterback Mountain Valley to its 2010 championship win over Leavitt.

That’s what Westbrook was facing when it got off the bus.

Losing 47-7 should hurt, Guerrette told his players. Learn from it. Learn from everything they saw and experienced and felt.

Rumford is a town that knows about winning. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Class A, B or C.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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Twitter: SteveSolloway