WELLS — Quite a bit has changed since last fall for Wells High football. Nineteen seniors from its state championship team graduated and the school dropped from Class C to D.

But one thing remains constant for the Warriors (10-0) – the program’s smash-mouth style of football.

“We just like to run it. We sort of go right at you all the time,” said Coach Tim Roche, who took over the program in 1998. “We like old-school football. We haven’t changed what we’re doing in probably 35 years.”

It’s an approach that has been effective for the top seed in Class D South, which will be home against No. 2 Madison/Carrabec (9-1) in the regional final at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner will face Foxcroft Academy (8-2) for the state title next Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“(Madison is) fast. They’ve got some big kids on the line,” said Ethan Marsh, a tight end and defensive end for Wells. “If we play disciplined, we should be able to win.”

Wells rushed for 347 yards and allowed 91 in its Class D debut, rolling past Winthrop/Monmouth Academy, 46-0. But the team faced more challenging opponents over the next several weeks. Following a 14-7 win over Class C power Cape Elizabeth, Wells entered halftime against Madison down 21-7 on Sept. 22.

Morgan Welch-Thompson, an offensive tackle and defensive lineman, called the two-score deficit a “wakeup call.” But Wells rallied for a 25-21 victory, then defeated its next six opponents by an average of 37 points.

“That game was a big turning point for us. I don’t think we ever knew how good we were going to be,” Roche said. “That made (our players) say, ‘Hey, if we can play the way we can play, we’re going to be one of the elite teams in our league.’ ”

Wells has 3,750 yards this season – 3,304 rushing – and has outscored opponents, 389-74. Nolan Potter leads the team with 1,254 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, and quarterback Michael Wrigley has thrown for 446 yards and accounted for eight touchdowns – four rushing and four passing. Other threats include running backs Tyler Bridge (14 touchdowns) and Chad Fitzpatrick (five).

“We have four kids who can really do some damage to you offensively, so that’s fun to coach when you can spread the ball around,” Roche said. “Defensively, it’s very similar to the run style we have. We just want to stuff you and make sure you can’t run on us.”

Middle linebacker Sean McCormack-Kuhman leads the defense, which has allowed more than seven points in just two games and limited opponents to an average of 134 total yards. Also a starting center, McCormack-Kuhman is one of the few two-way starters who returned from last year.

“Not a lot of people are returning as starters but everybody just wants to work hard and get better every day,” McCormack-Kuhman said. “We have a lot of kids who are just really eager to play and want to fight for those positions.”

Wells lost almost half of its 2016 roster to graduation and had to build around returning seniors such as McCormack-Kuhman, Wrigley, Potter and Fitzpatrick.

Players who didn’t get much playing time last year have helped fill the void. Roche noted Bridge, Marsh, Peyton MacKay (linebacker) and Dylan Whitney (guard) as some who “stepped up big-time” this season.

Wells has advanced to six state finals and won three championships – two in Class B (1997 and 2011) and one in Class C, when the Warriors defeated Mount Desert Island 44-0 last fall.

Wells High has an enrollment of 432 students and is now playing with Class D South programs that range in size from Poland (462) to Old Orchard Beach (251). Enrollments at Class C South football schools range from 632 to 494.

Roche said the team applied up to compete against larger schools for the last 12 to 15 years, but this season Wells is “where they’re supposed to be” in Class D.

“I think we’ve taken some heat for that, being the state champion last year and then moving down,” Roche said. “We (had the enrollment of) a C school when we won the Class B state championship and (the enrollment of) a D school when we won the Class C state championship. But you have to look ahead. You can’t just look at one year.”

Regardless of enrollment, the Warriors are back in familiar territory – the regional championship game.

“We don’t want it to be over,” said Drew Peters, an offensive tackle and defensive lineman. “This week is just another week and we’ve got to perform. This isn’t going to be our last football game together.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or

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