Thornton Academy went 11-0 en route to the Class A championship last fall. This year, the Trojans top our list of 10 teams to watch in southern Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

1. Thornton Academy: After rolling to the Class A title last fall, the Trojans remain the top team in Maine until proven otherwise. The offense is in the hands of returning senior QB Kobe Gaudette (48 of 86, 884 yards, 16 TDs), who made great strides as a junior. Gaudette has Payton Jones as a top target and powerful quality RBs in Isaac Ofielu and Julien BaileyCottle. Jack Rogers, a Varsity Maine All-State pick, and Dane Giguere return to anchor the offensive line. The defense returns six starters, led by DE Tanner Lynn and inside LB Cole Paulin. Senior kicker/punter Brady Forbes is a big asset.

2. Marshwood: The two-time defending Class B champs graduated key players on both sides of the ball but return top-notch skill players in RB Justin Bryant, WR Cullen Casey and RB John Valentine. Senior Connor Caverly, an all-conference defensive end, is expected to take over at QB. The challenge will be rebuilding the offensive line where senior Michael Cruz is the only returning starter. Look for Caverly (DE), Bryant (LB) and the ball-hawking Valentine (DB) to lead the defense. The Hawks are the favorite to repeat in the new-look Class B South, which includes six former Class A schools.

3. Scarborough: Senior RB/kick returner Jarett Flaker is a preseason favorite to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy. In the past two seasons, the New England 200-meter champion has scored 30 touchdowns and averaged 14.6 yards per offensive touch. But Scarborough is not a one-man attack. QB Chase Cleary is the returning first-team SMAA pick, and RB/DB Zach Alofs is a standout all-around player. Defensively, Tom Galeckas showed instinctive ability to make plays at LB as a sophomore and he should have room to roam behind a strong defensive line led by Nathan Mars and Maxwell Piispanen.

4. Bonny Eagle: The Scots have the offensive firepower to compete for the top spot in Class A. Their two QBs offer different skills and often will be on the field at the same time. Zach Maturo is a dynamic runner who can also play as a slot receiver while 6-foot-3 Keegan Meredith is more of a pure passer. They’ll work with RB Nate Ferris and WRs Shaun Brilliant and Chase Graves, and three returning linemen led by Will Horton. Coach Kevin Cooper expects his defense to improve this fall. Horton, a 265-pound DL, played half of last year with an injured knee, and LBs Ferris and Cam Gardner have a year’s experience. Cooper considers Alex Dyer one of the best safeties in the state.

5. Kennebunk: With the graduation of 17 seniors, one might think Kennebunk would take a major step back. But Coach Joe Rafferty sounds confident that his team can be very competitive this fall. Senior Tommy Lazos will replace Tripp Bush at QB and he’ll have some proven weapons in backs Ryan Connors and Jake Sullivan and split end Silas Woodman. The offensive line is led by returning starters Dylan Johnston (C), Nolan Saunders (G) and Karl Ezepek (T). Defensively, Connors and Sullivan offer good speed on the corners, with tackles Johnston and Cam Bennett and ILB Saunders providing strength up the middle.

Brunswick won the Class B North final last fall and is the favorite to repeat as the regional champ in 2019. Joe Phelan/Morning Sentinel

6. Brunswick: Coach Dan Cooper compares Brunswick’s overall team speed to that of his undefeated 2016 title team that dominated Class B. What the Dragons don’t have compared to that squad is an experienced offensive line. Still, the defending Class B North champs are the pick to repeat in the region behind senior RBs Owen Richardson, Mitch Lienert and Jack Harvey. With more speed on the outside from Chandler Coombs and a very good TE in Treyvon Mackenzie, QB Noah Goddard may throw the ball a bit more. Still, Brunswick will still be a run-first team. Look for the line to improve as the season goes on as players like junior Josh Poulin (6-5, 280) get used to the varsity level.

7. Portland: With five starters back on both sides of the ball from their Class A North championship team, the Bulldogs figure to be the strongest of the six former Class A teams switching to Class B this fall. Senior Jonah Green is a top-tier two-way lineman. The defense gets a boost with the return of LBs Ryan Howell (injured last season) and Garrett Stewart (two years in Tennessee). Look for hard-hitting safety Jamal Moriba to become more of a factor on offense as a running back. First-year coach Jason McLeod has installed the air-raid offense so it will be up to returning senior QB Sam Knop to be quick and accurate with his throws.

8. Falmouth/Greely: Talk about adjustments. First Coach John Fitzsimmons had to oversee the merger of two former rivals into one co-operative team, now he and his team have to adapt to an entirely new schedule after shifting from Class B South to B North. The addition of four varsity players (eight overall) from Greely has gone smoothly. Frmer Rangers Naveen Caron (RB/SS), Brady Nolin (RB/LB) and Braden Bickford (LT) will start and Caron was voted a team captain. Nick Mancini returns at QB, with WR/CB Brady Douglas a top target. Falmouth/Greely has the talent to challenge Brunswick, but has limited depth (38 players).

9. Wells: The Warriors have won 28 straight games and three straight state titles. After going unbeaten in two seasons in Class D, Coach Tim Roche’s team is back in Class C and again a major threat to bring home a Gold Ball. Payton MacKay (1,059 yards, 14 touchdowns) is ready to take on the role as lead running back. Strong FBs Jonah Potter and Matt Tufts and shifty outside threat Devin Chace will keep defenses honest. A veteran offensive line includes center Cam Barker, 6-5, 285-pound tackle Evan Leach and 6-3 TE Matt Ouellette. Sophomore Brady Fox will take over at QB as senior Braeden MacNeill becomes a two-way lineman.

10. Old Orchard Beach: The Seagulls are worth watching because of the program’s role in the introduction of eight-man football at Maine’s high schools. Coach Dean Plante was an early proponent of eight-man football and last spring the MPA adopted a two-division format in which 10 teams will compete for the first eight-man championship. Look for Old Orchard Beach to edge Boothbay to win the five-team small-school division with several returning two-way starters including junior QB Jaden Davies, and athletic junior linemen Kobe Weinstein and Plaithian Dayton. FB/LB Jacob Methot is currently nursing a knee injury.


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