PORTLAND — First-year Marshwood football coach Alex Rotsko learned soon after he took over that two of the team’s best players would miss the season with knee injuries.
“I thought of turning back and going home,” kidded Rotsko.
Fortunately for Marshwood, Rotsko stayed.
Now the combination of new leadership, talented underclassmen and a group of seniors determined to win have propelled Marshwood into the Class B state championship game against Mt. Blue at 6 p.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
While new to the Hawks, Rotsko, 59, is certainly not new to coaching.
He was the head coach at Longmeadow, Mass., High for 19 years, leading the Lancers to 15 straight Western Massachusetts championship games, winning 11.
He was the head coach at American International College in Springfield, Mass., for 10 years prior to that. This is the 16th straight season that a Rotsko team has played for a championship.
The Hawks (10-1) beat York 21-20 last Saturday to win the Western Maine title. A week before, the Hawks beat Wells 15-13 in the semifinals, avenging a 36-6 regular-season loss to the Warriors.
“This team never lets up,” said Rotsko. “We’ve trailed in a few games against good teams.”
Each time but once, Marshwood rallied to win the game.
The Hawks, once a dominant program, are playing in the school’s first state championship game since 1989, when Marshwood moved to Class A and won the state title in its first year. Marshwood moved back to Class B prior to last season and went 2-6.
Junior quarterback Cameron Roll become the starter in preseason. A halfback as a sophomore, Roll has added another strong runner to the team’s wing-T offense.
He gained more than 100 yards in limited carries against York. Halfback Brett Gerry, part of a talented sophomore class, is a hard runner whose second and third efforts have meant extra yardage. Seniors Dan Lizotte and Nick Janes also are capable runners.
The Hawks will face their biggest challenge in Mt. Blue of Farmington (11-0), the season-long leader in Eastern Maine.
The Cougars lost to Leavitt in last year’s Eastern Maine final.
“Mt. Blue has a very good quarterback, probably the best we’ve played against all year,” said Rotsko. “They have a couple of big kids at fullback and tight end. They have a good running back.
“Mt. Blue creates a lot of problems defensively because they can do a lot of different things. They can play the power game or they can throw.”
Mt. Blue is balanced offensively. Jordan Whitney has passed for 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Fullback Chad Luker ran for four touchdowns in the regional championship game against Waterville.
The Cougars are playing in their first state title game since 2005, when they lost to Bonny Eagle 41-13 in the Class A final.
Last week at Marshwood High, “Rotsko For President” T-shirts were seen around school. If Marshwood had won the state title before then, there’s no question the towns of Eliot and South Berwick would have gone solidly for Rotsko on Nov. 6.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: