Brunswick offensive and defensive linemen stretch during a linemen-only practice earlier this preseason at Brunswick High School. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

Brunswick football coach Dan Cooper still feels good about his team’s chances this season. Despite having just a 7-on-7 flag football season in 2020, the 2019 Class B North regional champions are gearing up for the unknown that surrounds this fall.

“It’s taken a few weeks to shake off the rust, but things have been going quite well,” said Cooper, who enters his 17th season as the head coach and 24th overall. “Having been the B North champions five out of the past six seasons, teams always play their best against us to try and knock us off. We know that we need to be extra sharp to meet that challenge.”

Brunswick was gearing up for another run at a Gold Ball in 2020 before the season was upended.

“The boys are pumped and so am I,” said Cooper. “We’re ready for the crack of the pads under the lights.”

Brunswick has just 38 players but returns a large class of juniors and seniors of 21 players between the two. Wes Cooper will be behind center with a backfield rotation comprised Sam Cassidy, Dalton Cooper and Jacob Musica. Jacob Hull and Porter Stanchfield will line up at receiver with Declan Lay at tight end. On the line, Wilder Burns, Oliver Hamilton and Colby Nadeau will protect Wes Cooper. Nadeau will lead the defense at linebacker, along with the Cooper brothers. Lay will lead the pass-rush.

“Our top-heavy upperclassmen comes with a lack of depth,” said coach Cooper. “Anytime you have kids playing a high number of reps, the injury and fatigue factor goes way up. It’s something we are really concerned about.”

Morse football coach Jason Darling, left, observes his team as players work on a tackling drill Monday at Morse High School in Bath. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

Still, Cooper is expecting a lot from this year’s team.

“We’re going to be competitive in the tough division that is B North,” said Cooper.

Morse coach Jason Darling and his Shipbuilders are gearing up for their fist season in eight-man.

“I don’t think we’ve had a practice with low energy yet,” said Darling. “Part of that is the chance to play tackle football again, but it’s also a testament to the kids that we have.”

Morse has 32 players in its program, a number that is higher than what Darling was expecting coming into the season.

The Shipbuilders will be led by senior Josh ter Mors under center. Ben Doughty will handle the rushing duties alongside Gabe Aucoin. Alex Maccio leads the line on both sides of the ball. Eliott Dorr slots in at wide receiver. On defense, Aucoin, Dorr, and ter Mors will be in the secondary. Doughty will be the lead linebacker.

“We hope to be tough, both physically and mentally,” said Darling, who enters his 12th season with Morse. “We want to outwork our opponents, and we also want to be extremely disciplined. We are fortunate to have the high character student-athletes that we have.”

Defending eight-man state champion Mt. Ararat will look a whole lot different than it did in 2019.

“We’ve set new goals for this team. We’ve moved forward and are looking towards the future,” said Mt. Ararat head coach Frank True.

Waterville quarterback Liam Von Oesen (8) dives through Mt. Ararat defenders Mackenzie Wilkins, left, and Kaiden Getchal, right, for the two-point conversion in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Eagles will be led by a stout line of Elliot Douglass and Kyle Graffam. Douglass is one of the better linemen in eight-man football, while Graffam is a converted running back who will play guard and linebacker this season. Shea Farrell and Kaiden Getchal will split carries in the backfield. Junior Mackenzie Wilkins will play quarterback.

“We’re going to be very run-heavy but feel comfortable mixing things up when needed,” said True. “We also have the ability to spread it out.”

Things will be different in Class D this season. After several teams made the switch to eight-man, teams were moved around to comprise a state-wide nine-team conference. Freeport was among teams moved to D.

“We’re still looking for our identity. We only have two players with varsity experience,” said Freeport head coach Paul St. Pierre. “We have the potential, we’re just looking for consistency.”

Freeport will be led by the Casale twins, Danny and Tony, on both sides of the ball. Tony will start at running back and as an outside linebacker while Danny will line up as a receiver and play in the secondary. Aidan Heath will play quarterback. In front of Heath is a solid line of Cody Arsenault, Cam Desrosiers and Jackson Carr, who will also play tight end. The Falcons have 30 players in all.

“We have a lot of speed and athleticism on both sides,” said St. Pierre. “We want to be competitive, learn from experience, and be playing our best football later in the season.”

Elsewhere in Class D is defending state champion Lisbon/St. Dominic, which returns just one player from that 2019 team.

“The reality is that 2019 is a distant memory for us,” said Lisbon head coach Chris Kates. “We’re focusing on the now. We have a lot of guys with little varsity experience.”

Senior Nick Blair returns as the lone starter from 2019. He’ll handle the running back duties and play linebacker. Owen Smith and Chance Versey will play on the line both ways, while Jack Ramich splits carries with Blair and leads the secondary.

“We want to be physical at the point of attack, that’s how Lisbon’s always been,” said Kates, entering his fifth year. “Our defense will be physical and wear the other team down.”

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