Oak Hill, which won its first state championship in 31 years in 2013, is a heavy favorite to reach the Class D title game again this season. The Raiders have 11 returning seniors, including six who started the past three years.
In all, there are seven returning starters on both offense and defense. Kyle Flaherty and Alex Mace are two of the top running backs in Class D.
Perennial power Lisbon, under veteran Coach Dick Mynahan, could challenge Oak Hill. The Greyhounds, who have five starters back on both sides of the ball, are led by quarterback Kyle Bourget, a three-year starter. Lisbon doesn’t have a lot of depth, so the team needs to stay healthy.
Old Orchard Beach is led by quarterback Bryan Roberts. Other key players for the Seagulls are Hunter Bouthot, a fullback/linebacker, and wide receiver Erik Hogan. Roberts rushed for 800 yards and passed for 500.
“We have depth at the skill positions,” said OOB Coach Dean Plante. “We have nine guys who can touch the ball and they all will in the course of a game.
“Going into the season, I would say the top three teams are Oak Hill, Dirigo and Lisbon. But there’s not a big dropoff from one through six.”
Dirigo has a new coach in Jim Hersom, a veteran who had been at Gray-New Gloucester. The Cougars will remain talented at the skill positions. Traip Academy went 1-7 in 2013 with a very young team, but it returns eight sophomores who started a year ago.
Bucksport, the defending Eastern Maine champ, has seven offensive starters returning and four on defense. Maine Central Institute, which went 7-2 last season and made it to the regional semifinals, has last year’s leading rusher and scorer in Eastern Class D in Jonathan Santiago, who scored 29 touchdowns.
Mattanawcook Academy went 9-2 last year before losing in the regional finals. The Lynx feature a big line and a strong running game. John Bapst has seven starters back on offense and defense and should be improved from last season’s 2-6 record.
Ellsworth/Sumner Coach Duane Crawford is hopeful his team will make progress, but knows it will likely come in small increments. This year’s freshman class is the first to have started in a local youth program.
“Until we get our feeder system going, there are no gimmies in this league,” Crawford said, “but there are teams we feel we can compete with. We have a lot of good juniors.”