The Nokomis football team had back-to-back winless seasons when Jake Rogers took over the program in 2017. In his first season, he led the program to its first playoff appearance. Last fall, Rogers led the Warriors to the Class C state title. Michael G. Seamans photo/Morning Sentinel

When Jake Rogers took over the Nokomis Regional High School football program in 2017, it was struggling.

Two seasons in Class B resulted in back-to-back winless seasons. With realignment, Nokomis was moving back to Class C, but that simple change wasn’t a cure for all the Warriors’ problems.

“Every practice, (Rogers) comes in with a practice plan down to the minute, and we stick to it,” said Nokomis quarterback Andrew Haining. “I think he was the perfect guy. He showed us a new way of playing. He’s detail-oriented. I was way more focused on the small details than I was before. He made us realize it’s the small things you do that other teams don’t that can be the difference.”

In Rogers’ first season, the Warriors went 6-3 and reached the playoffs for the first time in program history. Last fall, Nokomis capped its impressive turnaround with a 13-12 win over Fryeburg Academy in the Class C state championship game.

As the architect of Nokomis football’s rapid transformation, Rogers is the Varsity Maine boys’ team Coach of the Year.

“It was really the kids. From Day 1 they wanted to listen to what I was saying and wanted to win,” said Rogers, who played football at Lawrence High and was an assistant coach there before taking over the Nokomis program. “The kids are the reason for all the success the last few years. I can draw something on the board but if they didn’t trust it and put their best foot forward it wouldn’t matter.”

After two straight winless seasons, the biggest obstacle to success at Nokomis was confidence. Rogers knew he had to instill that as much as teach X’s and O’s.

“Kids try to tell you they’re confident, but until you see it on the field, it’s just bluster,” said Rogers. “The confidence kept growing and the attitude on the field changed. It got to the point a guy would make a great solo tackle, but not show a lot of emotion. Maybe a fist bump. Because he knows he’s supposed to do it and he can do it.”

Nokomis went 4-4 in the regular season last fall, playing one of the toughest Class C schedules in the state. Six of the eight opponents the Warriors faced in the regular season advanced to the playoffs. That included defending state champion Maine Central Institute, as well as Hermon and Leavitt, which advanced to the North and South regional finals, respectively.

The No. 4 seed in the North, Nokomis opened the playoffs with a 38-6 win over Medomak Valley before avenging regular-season losses to MCI and Hermon in the next two weeks. A 13-0 win at MCI earned the Warriors a spot in the regional championship, where they held off the Hawks, 13-6.

Rogers’ attention to detail was most apparent in the Warriors’ defense, which held four playoff opponents to an average of just six points per game.

“I always believe when a team is successful it’s got to be because of the kids playing the game and going through the daily routine of the season,” he said.