FARMINGTON — J.T. Williams has seen the documentary ‘The Rivals.’

He knows that Jim Aylward has won four state championships at Mountain Valley High School.

So even after Gary Parlin retired after 21 seasons as head football coach at Mt. Blue, Williams had little doubts that Aylward could take over when it was announced in February that he would be the next coach of the Cougars.

“I could tell right off the bat that all the kids would like him,” Williams, a senior who played wide receiver and linebacker last season, said. “He’s really good with kids and I feel like he’s going to be a really good motivator. I feel like kids are going to want to play hard for him and go all out for him.

“…It was nice to know that he had a winning tradition in his past time and he can bring that into here to help our winning tradition too.”

Mt. Blue had its first practice under Aylward Monday morning and it was so far, so good for the Cougars.

“It’s been fun too play for two really good coaches,” junior Ryan Pratt said. “They both know a lot about football.”

The feeling also seemed to be mutual. Aylward said he liked a lot of things he saw from his players, but — like most coaches on Monday — also saw where there was room to grow.

“I thought it was a very productive day,” the coach said. “We’re still trying to figure out who we are. They know we have a lot of work to do. One of the obvious things is we don’t have a lot of seniors. We have a younger team. That’s not an excuse, we still expect to be successful.”

It is still very early in the process, but opponents can expect to see a different Mt. Blue team this season as it gravitates away from the spread offense.

“One of the things I’m clear about is we’re going to be tougher mentally, physically. We’ve got to learn to play different styles of football,” Aylward said. “I watched game film of Brunswick and they try to just run you over and beat you up. They were the big boys, them and Cony last year. I want us to look more like the style of play of Brunswick.

“I think we have the kids eventually to do that. We have good numbers in the sophomore and junior classes. I just want to be able to be a better defensive team and I think that starts with being able to run the ball. We have to be better defensively.”

•••

Aylward was not the only one whose first day at the helm was Monday, but when it comes to Waterville football, Matt Gilley knows it as well as anyone.

Gilley — a player for the Purple Panthers in the late 1990s and assistant coach the past six seasons — takes over for Frank Knight, who had coached Waterville for the previous 24 years.

“It’s been really positive. Coach Knight has been awesome sort of passing the reigns to me,” Gilley said. “I was lucky enough to be a player for coach Knight in the late 90s — and actually the whole staff was lucky enough to play for coach Knight — so we all really know what its like to be a part of Waterville football.”

This fact has not been lost on Gilley’s players, as a couple noted his experience on the coaching staff and as a player at Waterville has helped with the transition.

“It’s been pretty good,” senior Ben Cox said. “We’ve had all summer with him and all the new coaches we know pretty good.”

“They’ve been through this program and they’ve been through it all,” added classmate Danny Pooler. “It’s good to carry on that tradition and we have to impress.”

•••

While some programs may be adjusting to new coaches, it was business as usual for Winslow in that sense Monday as Mike Siviski begins his 30th season as head coach of the Black Raiders.

Siviski has been around long enough to know though, each new season comes with its own set of challenges.

“You never know. Each year is a unique thing. A unique set of kids and a unique chemistry,” Siviski said. “We’re just starting out and we’ll know more in the middle of next week.

“…It’s kind of a learning phase right now because there’s absolutely no contact or anything so what we’re doing is we’re learning.”

Even though the Raiders — like most teams — are not sure how the season will play out, the players are still happy to be back out on the football field.

“It’s a great feeling,” senior Bobby Chenard said. “I think we’re going to come together as a team and we’ll really fill some spots and it will be a good year.”

“Senior year, it’s going to be pretty fun,” added Justin Martin. “Having some core guys back will be good and I hope we do pretty good.”

•••

Double sessions are never easy.

While necessary to get players ready in time for the start of the season, they make for long days — particularly coming off summer vacation.

“It’s always a little rough getting into double sessions,” Messalonskee senior quarterback Jake Dexter said, “but it’s good to be back.”

Getting back into the swing of things might not have been the easiest, but at least the Eagles could do so on one of the nicest fields in the state. For the second year in a row, Messalonskee opened training camp Monday at Colby College’s Henry Alfond Stadium.

“I know one of the assistant coaches and plus No. 3, Jake Dexter, his father (Tom) is one of the assistant coaches so we lucked out,” Eagles coach Brad Bishop said. “I got hired at Messalonskee last year and said, ‘wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to practice up here.’ We don’t have pads on, obviously, but it’s easy on the feet, good on the knees and the kids enjoy it.”

“It feels really good playing out here,” senior Jack Bernatchez said. “Much better than our practice field back at school.”

If there were any problems with the Eagle’s practice field Monday, it was the number of players.

“We’re a little thin on numbers. We’ve got 12 freshmen and 20 upperclassmen, that’s it, but we’ve got some good skill kids and we’re going to find some linemen,” Bishop said. “We’ll be alright, we just can’t get anybody hurt, that’s all. I think we can be competitive.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: Evan_Crawley

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