Mt. Ararat defenders Kaiden Getchell (33) and Kyle Graffam (32) look to bring down a Mountain Valley ball carrier during a Sept. 10 game in Topsham. Photo provided by Jason Eggleston

TOPSHAM — Mt. Ararat senior linebackers Kyle Graffam and Kaiden Getchell have one task when they step out on the football field: Find the ball.

The seniors are doing plenty of that this fall, leading an Eagles squad that is not only 4-0, but one that is tough to be scored upon.

“There’s always something to read pre-snap,” said Graffam. “It’s something we’ve been taught well, but it’s something I take pride in.”

Added Getchell: “Our motto is eight hats to the ball at all times. It’s something that we’re good at and it’s just what we do.”

Under the direction of eight-year head coach Frank True, the Eagles have seemed to pick up right where they left off after winning the 2019 eight-man state championship. While the offense routinely enjoys big games, it’s the defense that has caught the eye of many. Through four games, the Eagles have allowed just 64 points — although the varsity starters have given up just two touchdowns. Their smallest margin of victory this season is 30 points, a 42-12 season-opening victory over Spruce Mountain.

The Mt. Ararat football team is off to a 4-0 start thanks in large part to its defense. Seniors Elliot Douglass (64) and Kaiden Getchell (33) have big contributors to the unit. Photo provided by Jason Eggleston

The unit has benefited from the performances of several standout players. Junior Shea Farrell roams the secondary as a linebacker/safety hybrid while Getchell and Graffam anchor the middle as linebackers. Up front, Elliot Douglass clogs holes and is often in the opposing team’s backfield.

While only Douglass, Getchell, and Graffam remain as players who saw valuable varsity time in 2019, the Eagles have clearly developed nicely resulting in several players who fill their roles well.

Peter Hahsey (linebacker), Max Spring (lineman), Wes Wallace (defensive back), and Mackenzie Wilkins (defensive back) also play big roles.

“My job is to stand my ground and not let them push me downfield,” said Douglass, who recently committed to Castleton State in Vermont to play football. “If I can make the opponent bounce it outside where one of these guys (Getchell, Graffam, and Farrell) can get to them then that play was a success for me. These guys are waiting for them, I just hope to push the pile over.”

It’s a thankless job, eating up blockers and letting the linebackers close in on the ball with the occasional sack here and there.

Douglass’ teammates know that, too.

“If I’m in a position to get a tackle, Elliot has done his job,” said Getchell.

True said that the experience gained from the 2019 season has helped him get a “leg-up” on his fellow coaches, many of whom are coaching in the eight-man ranks for the first time this season.

“Without question, it’s been a big help,” said True, whose team hosts undefeated Cheverus (2-0) on Friday night. “During 2019 we ran one thing and by the end of the season we were running something completely different. We were able to start this year with the schemes that we ended the 2019 season with.”

Mt. Ararat junior Shea Farrell has been a steady force for the Eagles on both sides of the ball. Farrell, a linebacker on defense, is amongst the team leaders in tackles. Photo provided by Jason Eggleston

The differences between eight-man and traditional 11-on-11 football may look different from the bleachers, but it’s the same game for the players, many said.

“Eight-man or 11-man, the purpose of the game is no different,” said junior defensive back Shea Farrell. “Mt. Ararat definitely had a jump on these other teams with the experience we possess, but we try not to think about the record and just practice as hard as we can for Fridays.”

True says that playing defense in the eight-man game can be challenging.

“With eight-man you still have the same number of gaps with a lot of ground to cover with three fewer guys,” he said. “In that respect, it’s much tougher.”

With Cheverus coming to town on Friday, the Eagles know the importance of the task at hand.

“I’m so excited, it’s our homecoming game for us too so we’re hoping for a huge crowd,” said Getchell.

Added Graffam: “We’re amped up, but we’re also focused. We don’t want to let distractions take away from what has to be done, we’re ready to show what we can do.”

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