CUMBERLAND – For the first time in nearly four years, Greely High football is officially back.

After three years of joining a co-operative with Falmouth as a means of allowing a handful of Greely students a chance to play, the Rangers have returned for 2022 as a stand-alone eight-man program. Instead of wearing blue-and-yellow, the Rangers can go back to wearing their traditional maroon-and-black uniforms with the distinctive Texas Ranger-style star on the helmet.

They can play on their home field on Friday nights. And have their own big dreams.

His bangs plastered to his forehead with sweat after Monday night’s 90-minute practice, junior linebacker/fullback Brayden VanPembrook smiled when asked what his goals were for this season.

“Gold Ball,” he said, indicating a desire to win a state championship.

“Just playing for the hometown. For all my friends and family in the stands,” said senior Luke Jackson, a linebacker and running back. “Getting that energy from the crowd. At Falmouth it was more for the Falmouth kids and we were just kind of there helping.”


As it was for high school athletes across the state in all fall sports, Monday was the first official day of preseason practice.

Greely football had two practices, one at 7 a.m., then an early evening session. Twenty-six players were on the Twin Brook Recreation Area field Monday night under the direction of Coach Caleb King, a 2011 Greely grad and four-year starter at Husson.

“I thought the first day went great in terms of we had great energy,” King said. “Guys were flying around, excited to be here. It was a great first day. I grew up here my entire life. I went to school here. I played football here, went off and played college. Having the opportunity to come back and coach football at Greely is super exciting.”

Twenty-eight players attended the morning session. Three more players had prior, excused commitments on Monday. King said he expects to have 30 players attending Tuesday’s double sessions. If Greely can maintain a roster that size, it can expect to play a junior varsity and varsity schedule, a key component to building a program. It would also be a bigger roster than Greely often had during in its 11-man football days, which came to an end after the 2018 season.

“I remember in high school we usually had 22, 24 players,” King said.

VanPembrook was the key driver of a player-initiated movement that convinced the Greely administration the time was right. He said he knew that if the co-operative continued, there would only be about eight players from Greely that would have played, as was the case in the previous seasons.


“This season, having Greely football back, isn’t so much for us,” VanPembrook said. “I feel like it’s to keep it going. Just getting it started is the biggest issue.”

“If we can inspire those little kids, right, to play football and get going, then hopefully they’ll join and we can get it back to an 11-man team,” Jackson said.

The last time the Rangers played at home, they dressed 19 players but were able to beat Biddeford 22-14 in a Class B South quarterfinal. The game epitomized what was both good and bad about Greely football.

Under former coach David Higgins, Greely earned a reputation as a hard-hitting team that was competitive in a tough Class B league despite perpetually low participation numbers. About four months after Higgins retired with a 10-year record of 51-43 in 2018, following a 5-5 season, the decision was made to form a co-operative with Falmouth. In 2019 and 2021 (no season in 2020) about eight players from Greely commuted to practices in Falmouth and wore their former acrhrival’s blue-and-gold uniform.

Greely is in the Eight-man Large School South division, along with Gray-New Gloucester, Lake Region, Mt. Ararat/Hyde, Spruce Mountain and Yarmouth/NYA. The Rangers are scheduled to play each of their divisional foes once. Games against Large School North teams Waterville and Morse complete a seven-game regular season.

Defending Eight-man Large School champion Cheverus has returned to 11-man football and will be in Class C South this season.

Greely opens the season at Gray-NG on Friday, Sept. 2. The first home varsity football game at Greely since 2018 will be Friday, Sept. 9, against Waterville.

None of the Greely players have played eight-man football. Then again, most of them have never played high school football. That’s why King said the key challenge early on will be getting kids comfortable with football basics, not about switching from an 11-man to eight-man. A scrimmage at Boothbay on Monday and an exhibition game at Old Orchard Beach will be first steps.

“Building that football knowledge back and just having confidence,” King said. “Confidence in themselves and their teammates that we can be good.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: