NEWPORT — The Nokomis football team’s defense didn’t play poorly in the regular season. The Warriors never allowed more than 28 points, and that was in a season-opening loss to Winslow.

Once the playoffs started, though, the defense became a brick wall.

In three games in the Class C North playoffs, the Warriors allowed a total of 12 points. Nokomis was at its best against the top two scoring teams in the region – top-seeded MCI and second-seeded Hermon. In the regional final Saturday, the Warriors shut down Hermon, a team that averaged a league-high 35.8 points per game. Nokomis took a 13-6 win to earn a spot in the state championship game against Fryeburg Academy.

“I’d say we’re starting to work as a team. I know personally, I got a little selfish during the season,” senior defensive lineman James Boyd said. “But I’ve realized my role in the defense. I think when we all play our roles, do our jobs, we just click.”

Saturday’s state final is the first in Nokomis football history. The Warriors (7-4) will take on Fryeburg (10-1) at 2:30 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

The reason for the defensive improvement is simply a matter of learning and adjusting, said Coach Jake Rogers.

“They’re just seeing it faster, reacting faster. Linebackers are coming downhill. Corners are squeezing and making plays at the line of scrimmage. They’re playing it the right way,” Rogers said.

In the regional final, the Warriors held Hermon to 163 yards, with 75 coming on quarterback Garrett Trask’s second-quarter touchdown run. The Hawks had minus-4 yards passing, and Trask, who threw only one interception during the regular season, was picked off three times. Nokomis also forced two fumbles as it avenged a 25-7 regular-season loss.

“We weren’t a team then. Everyone was selfish and doing their own thing,” senior cornerback Chance Graves said of the regular-season loss to Hermon. “Do your job, man. That’s about it for us.”

Added Rogers: “We struggled to get (turnovers) early in the regular season, but now all of a sudden, the weather’s getting a little bad and we’re finding opportunities.”

The No. 4 seed in the region, Nokomis began the playoffs with a 38-6 win over No. 5 Medomak Valley. The Warriors held the Panthers to 112 yards while forcing a pair of turnovers. Nokomis followed that by holding defending state champion MCI to 105 yards in a 13-0 win. The game came just two weeks after MCI beat Nokomis 24-21 in overtime in the regular-season finale. MCI gained 200 yards on the ground in the first game, but in the rain-soaked rematch, Nokomis held the Huskies to 48 yards rushing.

Along with a new commitment to playing team defense, the Warriors study their opponent, looking for tendencies. They also self-scout, looking for areas in which they can improve.

“We do a lot of film breakdown on Mondays. We identify plays they like to work a lot, and weaknesses in our defense we need to hone in to re-establish and counter that team’s offense,” Boyd said.

There’s also been a focus on fundamentals, particularly on the defensive line.

“We’re tying to focus on staying low. We had some trouble with that early in the season, but we worked on it the last couple weeks, and it’s worked out for us,” Boyd said.

Fryeburg presents another challenge. The Raiders average just under 29 points per game and are strong on the ground and in the air.

“They’re fast, real fast, across the board. Their backs, linemen, everything,” Boyd said.