Mason Savery of Morse, left, tracks a pass before a catch over Nolan Blessington of Mt. Ararat, right, in a 7 on 7 football game last fall at McMann Field in Bath. Eli Canfield/Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick football team did not get the chance to defend its Class B North title last year after the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with summer football heating up and the return of tackle football on the horizon, the Dragons are preparing to do what they had originally planned on doing in 2020: Defend that regional title.

“The boys are super excited. I can see it in our workouts, the missed year was tough on all of us,” said longtime Brunswick coach Dan Cooper. “We can finally defend our regional title, something we are looking forward to doing.”

Brunswick has had a 7-on-7 scrimmage with Lisbon and has several more planned through the rest of the month.

The excitement of defending a championship is back in Topsham, too. After Mt. Ararat won the inaugural 8-man state championship back in 2019, a 58-25 win over Old Orchard Beach, the Eagles are ready to defend their title as well.

“We’re young but have players who are committed to learning the game and are getting up to speed,” said Mt. Ararat coach Frank True, who says the team has been mainly conditioning and working in the weight room thus far.

A worry for coaches after the lost season was the number of players who would return to the sport.

Mikey Ryan of Gray-New Gloucester prepares to tag Caden Benedict of Freeport after a reception last season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Some coaches have gotten their answers already.

“We have a solid foundation and should be in the mid-40s in terms of numbers when the season begins,” said Lisbon coach Chris Kates.

Kate’s, whose team won the 2019 Class D state title, says his team has been going through their normal summer workouts.

“It’s exciting and relieving. We lost a big year for us and our development,” added Kates. “We were able to do some things last year and retain a lot of our players so we can start by going off that.”

In Brunswick, Cooper says he’s expecting to have anywhere between 35-40 players when full team practices truly begin in August. Despite being down from previous years, Cooper says numbers are “decent” all things considered.

For 8-man teams Morse and Mt. Ararat, both coaches say they are expecting around 25-30 players on the team.

Leavitt’s Wyatt Hathaway tumbles to the ground with the ball while being chased by Lisbon’s Daytona McIver and Kevin Gallie during a 7-on-7 football game at Leavitt last fall. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Morse coach Jason Darling says his team has been working on fundamentals with the long layoff taking an effect.

“We’re spending our time on fundamental work as it has been two years since any of our players have had to block or tackle anyone,” said Darling. “I don’t foresee us having any 7-on-7 scrimmages (because of this).”

Class D Freeport is hoping to have 35 players come the fall.

“We’ve had around 25 kids show up to the summer workouts, which has mainly been in the weight room,” said Freeport coach Paul St. Pierre. “On the field it feels like a continuation of last season with the 7-on-7’s, a lot of the guys remember most of what we did last season since that’s all we did.”

St. Pierre shares a similar feeling to Kates with a sense of relief.

“It’s just nice to have that burden gone, it’s feeling like a normal summer,” said St. Pierre. “That storm cloud of the unknown is gone. I’m only getting questions about football now rather than about how things will unfold.”

A handful of players on the Midcoast will be representing their schools at the annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, scheduled for July 17 at Lewiston High School. Although it will not be the traditional tackle football game and will instead be an eight-team tournament of 7-on-7 games, coaches are more than proud of the players who are representing.

In Bath, graduate Mason Savery will represent the Shipbuilders.

“Mason was an absolute joy to coach and has been a leader on our team for his entire high school career,” said Darling. “He’s a very deserving candidate and I’m looking forward to watching him.”

Brunswick will send graduates Cam Hathaway and Cody Larson, while Mt. Ararat’s Nolan Blessington will represent the Eagles. Lisbon will send Justin Le and Daytona McIver, while Freeport sends Caden Benedict.

“Nolan is excited to compete on the field and raise money for such a great cause,” said True. “I’m glad he’s getting this opportunity.”

While it’s been difficult for coaches to get all their players together during the summer months, training camp is just around the corner.

“Our Eagle football camp is during the last week of July, we cannot wait to put the pads back on,” added True.

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