The four teams that played in the Class A regional finals last year could end up there again. All four have plenty of talent returning.
Bonny Eagle, the defending state champion, defeated Thornton Academy 28-13 for the Western Maine title and Cheverus beat Portland 22-19 for the Eastern Maine championship.
A week later, Bonny Eagle downed Cheverus 31-28 for the Gold Ball.
Bonny Eagle returns quarterback Zach Dubiel, who scored the winning touchdown in the state final on a 6-yard run on fourth down with 22.8 seconds left.
Cheverus returns a pair of All-State selections in running back Joe Fitzpatrick and defensive end Zordan Holman, a 6-foot-6 force.
Thornton returns quarterback Austin McCrum, a 6-4 junior who passed for 1,300 yards last season, and plenty of other offensive talent.
Portland has elusive quarterback Jordan Talbot, a veteran line and some capable running backs ready to take over for a talented group that graduated.
“It’s Bonny Eagle and Thornton Academy at the top of the pack,” said Biddeford Coach Brian Curit of Western Class A, “and then everyone else.”
Curit is confident his team will reach the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
“We started so many young kids last season,” he said. “If we stay healthy we should be all right.”
With Bonny Eagle and Thornton seemingly locks for playoff berths, six teams will compete for the remaining four spots.
Along with Biddeford, South Portland should be one of those other teams making the playoffs.
“I feel Bonny Eagle is going to be really good,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “South Portland and Biddeford will be very competitive. We did a combination workout with Biddeford. They had a really good freshman group (last year) who are sophomores.”
In Eastern Class A, Cheverus is still the barometer by which all teams are measured.
“I think everything goes through Cheverus,” said Windham Coach Matt Perkins. “They’ve had a good run.”
Windham should be much improved. The Eagles started several underclassmen last season. Perkins feels his team has a chance to be very good, reminding him of the talent that won the 2009 state title. Or at least the potential.
Bangor has another big team that gained experience last season. Lewiston is led by a running back turned quarterback, Quintarian Brown, and wide receiver Ace Curry. Edward Little looks to make the playoffs again.
“It’s shaping up to be a very balanced league,” said Deering Coach Matt Riddell, who has a fast team looking to improve on last year’s 1-7 record.