Early in the season, Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire noticed something off about Keegan Choate. It wasn’t the sophomore and new starting quarterback’s leadership, or his throwing mechanics, or the way he asserted himself in the Ramblers’ huddle.

It was his feet — specifically, how he was using them.

“That was probably something he struggled with the most,” St. Hilaire said. “We filmed the quarterbacks, and he was struggling with his footwork and his release points.”

Choate went about fixing the weakness the only way he knew how. He put in work. Time on the practice field, time off of it, time in the gym and the weight room — and as the weeks went on, St. Hilaire saw perhaps Choate’s biggest flaw become one of his greatest strengths.

“His footwork is extremely good now,” St. Hilaire said. “He has worked so hard to improve his footwork so his feet are angled in the throw the way they need to be. … He’s just an incredibly hard worker, and when he makes mistakes, he wants to not only correct it but he wants to rep it until he can’t get it wrong.”

That work ethic has helped Choate steadily grow into an asset for the Ramblers in his first season under center. The sophomore has led Winthrop/Monmouth to a 2-3 record, and seen his responsibilities grow in the process. He guided his team to a potentially season-saving win over Ellsworth on Friday, completing 12 of 26 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns to pull the Ramblers back from a second-half deficit en route to a 25-14 victory.

Choate’s still only five games into his first season, and there’s plenty left to learn. But he acknowledged that, with each week, it’s getting easier.

“The plays are a little bit easier now. I’m starting to get the hang of it, the timing of the routes is definitely down now,” he said. “(In) week 1 I was a little bit nervous, but now I’ve gotten all that nervousness out of the way and I’m just playing the game.”

Choate had an up-and-down season on junior varsity last year, but when it came time for this season, St. Hilaire was struck by how determined the 6-foot, 185-pound signal caller was to improve.

“We knew this spring that he had a nice arm, he’s a tough kid, he’s a strong, downhill runner. What we didn’t realize was how diligent he was as a worker,” he said. “There were times during double sessions where he went to the gym afterwards. And he does that today.”

Choate doesn’t look at it as work. To him, it’s part of the fun.

“Any time you’re going out on the field with the rest of the guys, it’s always fun,” he said. “I just really put in a lot of work, because if I didn’t do any work I probably wouldn’t be here.”

There were some bumps along the way. Choate had to learn to command a varsity offense, gain the varsity players’ respect — and, in some cases, be reminded of the varsity plays.

“We called 12 wedge (vs. Madison), which is basically a quarterback sneak for him,” St. Hilaire said. “He turned to go hand it off to the fullback, and he got hit. He came up and he says ‘Who gets the ball in 12 wedge?’ I said ‘You do.’ ”

All part of the learning process — one that for Choate is going pretty well.

“Once you get the hang of it, it’s not that bad,” he said. “But there’s been a lot to learn. There’s a lot to learn still.”

• • •

Cony scored another big win Friday night. And this time, the Rams (3-2) could celebrate it.

Cony rallied back from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter, scoring a pair of touchdowns to upend Brewer, 20-14. It was the Rams’ third straight win after an 0-2 start, but unlike the previous victory over Mt. Blue, in which a pair of defensive starters suffered season-ending injuries, there was nothing to ruin the mood this time.

“Given the circumstances, being down 14-6 with seven minutes to go and not only rally and tie it, but then win it with 30 seconds left, it was pretty animated on the sideline,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “It was a fun night for everyone associated with Cony football.”

Down 14-6 late, the Rams had to work for it. Logan Leadbetter scored on a 6-yard touchdown run with 6:30 to go, with Matthew Wozniak hauling in the tying two-point conversion pass. Cony then took over with just under two minutes left, and Anthony Sousa found the end zone for the winning score on a 1-yard run with half a minute to go.

To Lippert, the rally said plenty about the Rams’ mental toughness.

“I think it speaks to their resiliency,” Lippert said. “I told them in film on Saturday, I’ve been a part of games like that as a player and a coach where you’re on the road, a couple of calls you feel went against you, a couple of spots we felt we got shorted on, and in those games you lose like every single time. For some reason, the kids didn’t give in.”

There was also a degree of revenge after Brewer bounced Cony from the Class B North semifinals last season, but Lippert downplayed that angle.

“I think in general, kids kind of transition from year to year and forget about it,” he said. “I don’t think it was something that was a huge motivating factor for us.”

• • •

Maranacook was given an impromptu bye week, courtesy of the Traip Academy football team. And the Black Bears decided to make the most of it.

The teams were supposed to play last weekend, but the weekend became an empty date after Traip shut down the remainder of its varsity season the previous week. So Maranacook (4-1) had a week off, which coach Walter Polky determined was actually the best thing for his team.

“We used it as a time to get healthy, take care of little things, make sure the kids’ grades are good. Get a little more detailed in practices,” he said. “I think for us and our situation, it was kind of a blessing in disguise because we’re still a young team, we’re still learning. We can use more time to really focus on more details, try to get that football IQ a little higher.”

Maranacook has another game with Traip scheduled for Oct. 21, but the team will instead play the following Monday against Lawrence’s JV team. Bye weeks could be back in the Black Bears’ future, however, as the five teams still playing in Class E will have a postseason tournament, with teams seeded first to third getting a week off and teams seeded fourth and fifth playing each other in the first round.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM