WELLS – Ben Castellano watched his older brother play football at Traip Academy in Kittery and was determined not to have the same experience.

“He only won two games in his four years,” said Castellano, a senior two-way tackle for the Rangers.

His brother played during one of the lowest eras of Traip football, when the Rangers went nearly six years between victories. After beating Oak Hill 8-6 on Oct. 21, 2000, Traip lost 51 consecutive games before beating Madison 15-8 on Oct. 6, 2006.

Ron Ross, in his 11th season as Rangers head coach, remembers the heartache the players on those teams suffered.

“It was tears after every game,” he said before a recent scrimmage against Wells. “They just couldn’t understand what they were doing wrong.”

Shed no more tears for the Rangers. They have won 14 games the last two years, losing to Yarmouth in the Western Class C final last fall, and loom as one of the top teams in the region again.

The seniors on this year’s team, who grew up watching their older brothers lose game after game, know they are part of something special. They want to use the lessons learned under last year’s talented senior class to keep the program moving forward.

“Last year’s senior class had pretty much a standing message that we need to come together or we’re not going to do anything,” said senior running back Corey Aldecoa, who played his sophomore season at Freeport but moved back to Kittery before his junior year. “We went with the program, had team dinners, spent a lot of time together as a team. We practiced as we played.”

It wasn’t always that way. Ross said when he arrived in Kittery in 1998, the team had some good players but no chemistry.

“I tell these kids, ‘The one thing that your brothers didn’t do is come together as a team,’ ” he said. “They were just a bunch of individuals playing the game. But when you’ve got a team that’s when you guys figured out how to play and how to win together.”

Ross needed an attitude adjustment himself, one that occurred when Nate Murphy joined the staff as a volunteer assistant. The two had known each other for years and, said Ross, “he brought with him a new attitude that I’ll say I forgot I had after going through all (the losing).”

The Rangers also benefited from a strong youth program that taught the players the fundamentals and instilled some pride.

Senior linebacker Danny Eddy, a four-year starter, said the players formed “a brotherhood” growing up together.

As freshmen the current Traip seniors won three games. Then they made the playoffs for the first time since 1991 as sophomores. Last year they took another leap, getting to the regional championship game and winning eight games.

They sensed a new attitude in school in the week leading up to games. Castellano said he saw more people than ever at home games.

“When we were freshmen, no one cared about the football team,” he said. “But each year we’d win more games and more people would pay attention to us; more people would care.”

Expectations are high this year.

The Rangers have a strong group returning but the numbers are small — only about 20 on the roster.

“But these are kids who want to be here,” said Ross.

And, said Eddy, that’s all that matters.

“We’ll play with 11, we don’t care,” he said. “It would be nice to have a couple more but we’ll make the best with what we have.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH