Nampo Dayton missed his freshman season at Old Orchard Beach but has made up for lost time since returning last year. The junior center and nose tackle will play a key role as OOB transitions into eight-man football. (ED DEXTER PHOTOGRAPHY)

When Nampo Dayton moved to Thailand to live with his mother before the start of his freshman year at Old Orchard Beach High, he always left with the intention to return home. 

That didn’t make losing one of the most physical players in the program any easier for OOB head coach Dean Plante. 

“We were super bummed,” Plante said. “Obviously, it’s a super experience, and it’s his mom, so you get that, and we had a feeling he’d be back … (Nampo) is one of those complete student-athletes. He’s the type of kid that you want leading. It’s natural for him.” 

Dayton’s back now, the junior returned to the Seagulls last year, and the two-way player at nose tackle and center is ready to anchor both sides of the ball for Old Orchard. Much of the focus this preseason heading into OOB’s season opener, a Sept. 5 showdown at home against Telstar, has been dedicated to learning new schemes for eight-man football. 

Earlier this year, the Maine Principals’ Association approved a pair of eight-man divisions each with five teams. The small-school division (350 or fewer students) features Sacopee Valley (310), Traip Academy (255), OOB (243), Boothbay (199) and Telstar (199). The game is played with two fewer linemen and one less receiver or running back on offense. The field shrinks in width by 10 yards, but it will stay 100 yards in length. The dimensions will force creativity on offense and defense, and, while there might be some variations in gameplay the Seagulls feel like they are ahead of the curve. 

“Our coaches have it all figured out,” Dayton said. “It’s getting pretty simple for us … I think we’re ahead of a lot of other teams because the coaches have always been for this – they’ve been pushing for this. So, them knowing what they’re doing really helps us.” 

The Seagulls, said Dayton, implemented a modified eight-man scheme into their 11-man offense last season that now serves as the team’s base formation. The games will be a little faster, the points will come at a faster rate and Dayton thinks the changes are good for Old Orchard. 

“A lot of people didn’t like it but I thought it was a good change for our school because we don’t have big numbers,” he said. “It’s a good way for us to … not feel so underpowered.” 

Since the MPA announced the addition of eight-man to the state, Dayton and his teammates have received an influx of media attention surrounding the change from publications such as The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and the Journal Tribune. The frequent inquiries by the media has strengthened the bond between an already “close-knit” group of players, said Plante, who act more like a band of brothers than an assortment of teenagers on the field. 

“Most of the schools around us are three to four times our size. I think kids take pride in coming from a small school,” Plante said. “These kids are very receptive to everyone.” 

While the responsibilities for some of Dayton’s teammates will alter slightly with the addition of 8-man, his duties as nose tackle and center, where Dayton makes the line calls before each snap, will remain relatively the same. If there’s one member of the Seagulls’ roster who doesn’t mind change, though, it’s Dayton. 

After being born in Thailand, Dayton bounced back and forth among the United States, where his dad lives, and his native land, where his mother, brother and sister reside, until the second grade, when he enrolled in the OOB school system. He’d still visit Thailand once a year, – he speaks the language fluently – and after eighth grade, he decided that he wanted to return overseas for an extended stay to get back to his roots, he said. Dayton didn’t know how long he was going to remain in Thailand, but a holiday trip back to the U.S. helped him decide. 

“I came back here for Christmas break to see everybody again and I just missed all of these guys,” Dayton said. “I kind of regretted missing that year of football.”

Dayton’s back now, his first game as a sophomore last year “was a little weird,” but after a couple of hits, it was as if he never left. 

“It was like he didn’t miss a beat, which is unusual because it’s a big transition from eighth-grade to (high school),” Plante said. “It didn’t take a lot for me to figure out that he’s a kid we want to look to put the program in his hands and see where we go.” 

Dayton plans to go back to Thailand soon, although he will prolong any extended visits until after he graduates, much to the delight of his coaching staff and teammates. Then? He’s thought about joining the military and pursuing his true passion. 

“I want to see the world.” 

 

Comments are not available on this story.