With southern Maine commuting on Interstate 295 just behind the field, the Portland High football team went through its first practice of the season Monday morning at Deering Oaks Park. Leading the Bulldogs was new coach Sean Green. For the seniors on the team, this season is a reunion with Green, who coached them in junior high with the Portland Tide before he moved on to be coach at Cape Elizabeth the last four seasons.

“I don’t have one complaint about (Green). He’s a great coach. He’s a great guy. When I was younger, I played the sport because I was pretty good at it. I didn’t have much love for it. My seventh-grade year, he bumped me up to play with the eighth-graders, the big dogs, and I just fell in love with football ever since then. I’m really happy to have him here to finish out my high school career.,” said senior Reegan Buck, a wide receiver and free safety.

Portland opens the regular season at Thornton Academy on Sept. 1.

Green coached Cape Elizabeth to the Class C state title in 2021 and to the regional championship game last fall. Monday’s practice began and ended with intense conditioning drills. The idea is to be in shape for November playoff football, Green said.

“When we coached (Portland) in seventh and eighth grade, we told them we’re thinking high school and varsity prep. So we coached them like a varsity team. Those guys at least, the seniors, know what it’s like to go through our conditioning program,” Green said.

This is a season of transition for the Bulldogs, who are coming off an 8-4 season in which they lost to Skowhegan in the Class B state championship game, 20-14. Not only does Portland have a new head coach, the Bulldogs are back in Class A for the first time since 2018.  They’re joined by three other schools also making the jump back to Class A from Class B: South Portland, Noble and Windham.


“We’re excited. I think Portland High School should be in Class A. I never really understood why they were in B to begin with. We’re excited for the competition,” Green said. “The boys are ready to go. We understand as a coaching staff what it takes to win at a high level. These kids do as well.”

Senior linebacker/fullback Brayden Wales agreed the Bulldogs belong in Class A.

“We should have never left (Class A). People can say what they want to. We heard last year, you guys are a Class A team. Why’d you go to B? Especially when we played SoPo (South Portland, in the regional championship), they were saying ‘Two Class A teams playing in the Class B yadda yadda yadda.’ Now we’re in Class A and they’re saying we’re Class B and don’t belong. We talk with our pads,” Wales said.

The Bulldogs graduated 11 seniors, including quarterback/defensive back Kennedy Charles, a finalist for the 2022 Fitzpatrick Trophy, awarded annually to the state’s top senior. Portland returns three all-conference players: Buck, Wales and wide receiver/defensive back Hunter Temple. With participation numbers in the mid-60s, the Bulldogs feel they have plenty of depth to contend for a playoff spot in Class A. Wales said he’s excited to play in Green’s more aggressive defense.

“Last year, we ran a 5-2 base and said, ‘We’re more talented than you. Beat us.’ This year, we’re honing it and making the defense sharper. A lot more stunts, a lot more looks,” Wales said. “As soon as I heard Coach Green was even thinking about it, I couldn’t wait. I really couldn’t. Me and all the other seniors, we played under him, and honestly it was one of the most fun years of football I’ve had in my entire life.”

On Monday and Tuesday, high school football players are allowed to practice in helmets. Shoulder pads can be added to the mix after two days, and full pads cannot be worn until Friday. At this point early on the practice schedule, Green said he’s looking for four things: purpose, intent, attitude and effort.

“At the end of the day, those are all things that are within our control, and we preach that all the time, control what you can control. We did a lot of work during the summer. We installed quite a bit today. We didn’t just come in and do two run plays and a pass play. We have quite a bit in,” Green said.

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