Winthrop/Monmouth senior Jeremy Mihalakis has been thinking about Saturday afternoon ever since the Ramblers suffered their only loss of the 2013 season, a 22-20 defeat to Dirigo in the Western D semifinals.

Elias Younes, a senior at Cony, has been focused on Friday night since his team won the Class B championship last fall.

The state high school football season is set to begin this weekend, and for most players, it is something they have been looking forward to with nervous excitement for quite some time.

For seniors in particular, there is added pressure as the season begins.

“I only have eight games given to me left,” Mihalakis said. “This is my senior year, so every game is as important to me as any this year.”

“It’s our last year so I’m really excited to go play and put all my heart into it,” added fellow Winthrop/Monmouth senior Dakota Carter. “I want it to be the most successful season that we’ve had so far.”

Carter is not alone, as everyone who takes the field this season will be hoping for the same thing. Obviously that can’t happen, so there a number of different perspectives local teams are taking into the season to try to make sure their fall ends with hoisting a Gold Ball.

Oak Hill athletic director Jim Palmer knows football. A former player and head coach at Gardiner, Palmer was an assistant coach with the Tigers when they won their state title in 2007. He took over as head coach the following season and said the biggest thing he tried to impart to his players was to not get caught up in the title run of the previous year.

“You have to wipe the slate clean and the toughest thing is not as a coach to wipe it clean, but to get the your kids to believe that it’s a clean slate,” he said. “They’re still living the dream from the last season, still really on that high. They’ve had the whole summer to think about it and what this year is going to be like.

“It’s really just getting them back to, ‘this is a brand new year and you haven’t beaten anybody yet. It’s time to put it back on and go.'”

The Raiders seem to be doing just that, as they figure to be in the hunt for their second straight Class D title.

“We take what we did last season and we know what we did, but we know it’s 2014 right now,” Oak Hill senior running back Kyle Flaherty said. “We’re trying to work hard out here now that we have a completely different team with new players in different positions.”

At Cony, the Rams are not trying to wipe the slate clean completely. Rather, they are focusing on taking what they learned from winning their first state title in 81 years and building on it.

“You want to make sure that you try and maintain the level that we had last year and for the past couple years,” Cony coach Robby Vachon said. “Saying that, there are a lot of new kids that we have, but a lot of them were with us last year so they understand what it takes to get to the level that we achieved last year.”

Younes said there are some nerves heading into Friday night’s home opener against Messalonskee, but that he and the team feel ready for the challenge.

“We all feel pretty good about it,” the senior lineman said. “We just have to play our game, stop them when they’re running and they have a really good quarterback, so we have to contain him as well.”

What if your team did not win a state title or make a deep playoff run last season?

What if your team went winless?

Well, just do not think about then — at least, that is the approach Gardiner is taking this year. The Tigers are leaving their 0-8 campaign of a season ago in the past, and are focused solely on everything that has happened since camp began on Monday, Aug. 18.

“We’re just working on getting better,” Gardiner senior Jake Truman said. “We’ve stopped thinking about last year. We’re just focusing on everything we can improve on and making sure we’re doing our jobs.”

The new season also comes with renewed enthusiasm, as the Tigers will be looking to get off to a strong start on Friday night when they host Lawrence.

“We’re really excited, really hyped up,” Gardiner senior Andrew Doody-Veilleux said. “We’re ready to go out there and give 100 percent.”

Whether you were 0-8 or 8-0, a season ago will soon mean nothing.

Seniors will be looking to make their last impressions, and new stars will be looking to rise through the ranks.

When the lights flicker on Friday night, football season will officially have begun in Maine.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.