SOUTH BERWICK — They play cornerback, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to call them cornerstones of the Marshwood football program.

Kyle Glidden and Joe Taran were the only sophomore starters in the defensive secondary when the Hawks won the 2015 Class B state title, their second in succession.

After a disappointing 6-4 season that ended with a regional semifinal loss last fall, Marshwood is riding high again, putting a 10-game winning streak and top seed on the line Saturday in the Class B South championship against No. 3 Falmouth (8-2).

As sophomores, Glidden and Taran noticed something about the seniors on that championship team.

“Those guys played their butts off every single play,” Glidden said. “The more you see that and the more you’re part of that, the more you’re able to replicate that on the field.”

That same sense of urgency and effort wasn’t always present last fall, Glidden said, and left him determined to recapture it this year.

“We had talent on our (2016) team and we had size and speed and all the things that you could want,” Glidden said, “but we just weren’t able to put it together for whatever reason. Sometimes it was effort. Sometimes it was dumb mistakes. Sometimes it was penalties.”

The Hawks came into this season with eight returning starters on defense, but only a handful on offense. Quarterback was a bit uncertain, but junior Tommy Springer has filled that role in impressive fashion.

“That may have been the biggest question mark coming into the season,” Taran said, “and he’s just has a phenomenal year.”

The rugged Springer has proven to be a reliable runner as well as an effective passer. Marshwood’s Delaware Wing-T offense features Glidden as the main running back, sophomore Justin Bryant at fullback and Taran at wingback behind a solid offensive line.

“Having four people in the backfield that can all make big plays just throws defenses off,” Glidden said. “They don’t know where to key.”

All four have run for more than 500 yards this season, with Glidden leading the way at 628 on 77 carries. Springer has run for the most touchdowns, 12. Bryant has the most carries, 87.

Taran has only 27 carries, but breaks such big plays that he has a whopping 20.4-yard average and nine touchdowns.

“We have kids on our second and third string who have more carries than he does,” Coach Alex Rotsko said of Taran. “The wingback, if he’s lucky he’s going to get four or five a game, and I’m not even sure he gets that because a lot of times, the first team is out by halftime.”

Marshwood opened the season with a pair of lopsided victories over Skowhegan and Greely before handing Biddeford its first loss, 35-21. Following shutouts of Lawrence and Westbrook, the Hawks pulled away late to beat Falmouth 42-19 and rallied from a halftime deficit to beat Kennebunk 15-12.

Neither playoff game was particularly close. Marshwood thumped No. 8 Mt. Ararat 47-0 and No. 4 Greely 45-19 to set up the return date with Falmouth, which knocked off No. 2 Kennebunk 32-20 last weekend.

Taran, who turned his team-leading seventh interception into a touchdown in the semifinal against Greely, pointed out that Falmouth was within a touchdown of Marshwood after three quarters in their first meeting, so he expects a tough challenge Saturday.

“We know they just beat Kennebunk, a very good team,” Taran said, “and you can just see on film how much they have improved.”

Marshwood’s improvement this fall can be traced to the commitment made in the subsequent winter, spring and summer, said senior Max Horton, a place-kicker on the squad that beat Brunswick 21-14 for the 2015 state title. Horton is now a two-way starter at tight end and outside linebacker.

“Personally, I didn’t know where we were going to stand after going 6-4 and losing a lot of players on offense,” Horton said. “But we had great weight-room attendance in the offseason. I think that helped a lot, and we have a lot of kids who were eager to get better, listen to Coach, and take his advice.”

Rotsko took over as coach in 2012 when this year’s seniors were in seventh grade. Marshwood had gone 2-6 in each of the three seasons before his arrival.

The Hawks reached the state final in Rotsko’s first year, the regional final his second and won back-to-back Class B crowns before falling to Kennebunk in the regional semifinals a year ago.

His overall record at Marshwood is 56-11.

“He has a Bill Belichick kind of vibe to him,” Glidden said of Rotsko, a successful coach at American International College and Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts before moving to Maine. “He doesn’t talk much. He’s not a huge motivation guy. He’s all business and gets our minds right for the game.”

Indeed, that rah-rah stuff is not for Rotsko, who also teaches health and physical education at the middle school.

“There’s only one type of motivation that’s worthwhile, and that’s self-motivation,” Rotsko said. “If a kid’s not self-motivated, it’s not going to work. This year, we have a bunch of kids who are self-motivated.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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Twitter: GlennJordanPPH