AUGUSTA — After running through an unbeaten regular season last spring before being dumped in the first round of the playoffs by rival Gardiner, it would be easy for the Cony High School boys lacrosse team to focus only on making up for lost time when the new season opens Thursday.

Instead, the Rams are focused on the void left behind by twin brothers Bret and Tyler Sproul, who accounted for more than half of Cony’s offensive production in 2016 before graduating and taking their tandem act to Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio.

“Where the difficulty comes is having the expectation to win, but also realizing how much work goes into winning, too,” Cony head coach Chad Foye said. “It seemed kind of easy at times last year, but there were a lot of kids that really busted their tails and worked really hard to make that happen. It’s about getting back that mindset.”

The Rams scored 210 goals across their 15 games last season, with the Sprouls netting more than 60 percent of those, Foye said.

Cony, which opens against Maranacook/Winthrop at Kents Hill School at 5 p.m. Thursday, will look to senior attack Chad Bickford to grow into the role vacated by Bret Sproul.

Bickford scored nearly 50 goals in his junior season and earned second team all-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference honors, but he’s feeling the pressure at the dawn of a new campaign.

“I definitely feel it, with how Bret played and how much he contributed,” Bickford said. “I think I have to take that role as the quarterback of the offense. It’s big shoes to fill.”

Not only was Sproul the quarterback, he was always the first option for the Rams on attack.

“He was very skilled at everything he did,” Bickford said. “I was more of a shooter. Taking over his role is going to be really hard because of how good he was at it and how hard he worked.”

Foye won’t make wholesale changes to the way the team approaches offense, but he does expect that the team will have to be more patient.

Juniors Dalton Bowie and Nick Robinson will join Bickford in attack as the Rams look for secondary scoring targets to emerge. With Cam Gallant returning in goal and defenders Derek Erbe and Logan Leadbetter also back, Cony’s defense should provide plenty of time for the offense to find its stride.

“We need some of the younger guys to really step up,” senior midfielder Nate Foye said. “We need our middies to step up and score more. We’re not going to have as fast-paced of a game this year. We’re going to have to slow it down and work the ball around more, but I think we should be all right.”

“I’m really comfortable with our defense,” Bickford added. “With our defense working so hard, it will put some pressure on me to make sure I’m keeping the ball in (the attacking) end so they can get a rest.”

On possessions following sustained bouts of defending is where Cony might look most different this spring. Instead of simply pushing the ball forward to Bret Sproul for a quick counterstrike, patience could dictate their game.

“We’ve got to try to control the pace,” Nate Foye said. “It’s not going to be as easy for us, and we will have a lot closer games than last year. Some of our midfielders are more defensive, so I think we’ll have a strong defensive game. Our offensive stuff we’ll just have to work on as the season goes.”

Bickford may have been a shoot-first player, but that part of his game will be asked to evolve this spring. In leading the attack, he’s going to have to be better at distributing the ball if there are better options elsewhere on the field.

He already knows how the offense works, so Chad Foye says — as the season rolls on — Bickford can be the type of impact player the Sprouls were before him.

“You hope the kids can grow and mature a little bit through the year,” he said. “The other thing is you just try to incorporate more people. … As the kids gain confidence, you want to be able to work toward them being confident that they’re going to score.”

And, this year, no matter where the goals come from, the Rams hope to score one more goal than the opposition when the playoffs roll around.

“As hard as it was after such a good season, with that heartbreaking first-round loss, the kids that are returning know what that was like,” Bickford added. “That’s starting to rub off on the younger kids that have come up.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC