It is no secret that the Gardiner and Cony high school football programs are intertwined.

Thus, it was fitting that when the two storied teams — whose rivalry extends well beyond a century — began double-session practices early Monday morning that they did so under very similar circumstances.

After 10 years as the team’s offensive coordinator, B.L. Lippert — a former quarterback with the Rams — took the field for the first time as Cony’s head coach after his predecessor, Robby Vachon, stepped away this past spring.

“I certainly miss Robby’s personality and general presence here, but pretty much things are the same,” Lippert said. “The kids are going to experience the same thing they have for the last 10 years with this staff and, hopefully, build upon what we’ve had for success the last couple years.

“(The Cony-Gardiner) rivalry has been going on for over 100 years and some great players have come through. It’s gone through the Depression and the World Wars and it will be here forever, hopefully. We’re just glad to be a part of it when it comes in October.”

Veteran players like running back/linebacker Reid Shostak and wide receiver Anthony Brunelle shared some of the same sentiments as Lippert, and noted that it has been a smooth transition process from one head coach to another.

“It’s not much different,” Shostak said. “We obviously all miss (Vachon) a lot, but it’s not that much different having (Lippert) around instead of someone new.”

“I totally agree,” echoed Brunelle. “(Lippert) has always had a huge impact on us and I don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference.”

Gardiner seniors Orion Seraph and Jack Hathaway expressed similar feelings about their new head coach, Joe White, a Gardiner graduate who — like Lippert — is sliding into the top spot after serving as an assistant under Matt Burgess.

“It’s hard having Burgess out of here. He supported the community a lot, but White’s been a good fill-in and so far we’re doing alright,” Seraph said.

While it was just the first day of practice, White was already encouraged by the enthusiasm he has seen for the program as approximately 70 kids showed up Monday morning.

“I got here at about (6:15 a.m.) and there were about three or four kids in the parking lot and they didn’t have to be here until 7,” White said. “We had guys showing up early, we had some new faces, some kids out that have maybe been playing soccer the last couple years. They’re excited.”

Of course, it is not just the prospect of a new season with new beginnings that has the players on both sides fired up. Regardless of how the season goes for both the Tigers and Rams, expect motivation to be easy to come by when the two teams meet for the 138th time on Oct. 23 at Alumni Field.

“We always do one more for Cony just to put in that extra effort during any conditioning drill,” Hathaway said.

• • •

While Cony and Gardiner turned to assistants within their respective systems to become head coaches, Winthrop/Monmouth went outside of the program last fall when Joel Stoneton stepped down as the team’s head coach to become Winthrop’s athletic director, ultimately hiring Dave St. Hilaire.

A number of players admitted Monday that it took a little time for them to buy into St. Hilaire’s system, but by the midpoint of last season, they were on board with the changes.

“Coming in we changed the whole offensive play scheme and we were all really skeptical about it, but in my opinion it worked pretty well for us,” Ben Ames, a senior split end said.

“We worked out a lot of kinks and it’s coming together nicely,” added senior center/defensive tackle Brendon Dunn.

At the end of July, St. Hilaire and a number of players attended a camp at Marshwood High School, where the second-year coach said he noticed considerable improvement.

“That was valuable because they run the same offense. The terminology is slightly different, but it’s pretty close to ours,” St. Hilaire said. “The kids got a lot out of that, the ones that went. They bring that back and it should be a fun year.”

• • •

Fun was also the word Joe Emery used to describe his expectations this season for Maranacook, which features 11 seniors as opposed to just four in 2014.

“I have a great group of seniors who really just love to play football. It makes it fun coaching,” Emery said. “I had a fun year last year, we finished 4-4 but I really enjoy this group.

“We have some sophomores and juniors that came up who have improved quite a bit. I think we’ll do pretty well this year. Some other teams graduated some, that’s kind of how it works. It goes in cycles.”

Emery noted that among that group of seniors, Kyle Morand, Zach Lacasse, Ty Smith and Dillan Chicoine had particularly strong offseasons.

“Those four guys worked really hard over the summer and they’re ready to rock and roll,” Emery said “They want to win some ball games.”

• • •

Rise as one.

Coined by third-year senior starting lineman Brendan Tervo, that will serve as the rallying cry for Oak Hill as it begins its first season under head coach Stacen Doucette without the services of Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty.

“We have a lot of new faces,” Doucette said. “We’re always going to miss (Flaherty and Mace) because they did some special things for a program and a community.

“Now, it’s (this team’s) turn. We’re optimistic and excited to see what they can do.”

While the Raiders may not have a player on the roster the caliber of Mace or Flaherty, Doucette did say this is the deepest team he has had since he arrived at Oak Hill.

Between Tervo, Garrett Gile, Austin Goucher and Gavin Chasse, the Raiders have plenty of experience up front, and quarterback Dalton Therrien and linebacker Levi Buteau are potentially explosive playmakers on offense and defense, respectively.

“The bottom line for our team this year is to build chemistry — one group and one team,” Doucette said. “Everyone is going to have a role, there are no superstars. When you get a rep, you do it the best you can.”

• • •

Kents Hill will not open up practice until players arrive on campus on Sept. 3, but four members of last season’s team have already begun practicing with their new teams.

Walter Washington, a lineman who came to Kents Hill as a postgraduate by way of Fleetwood, New York, is staying in Maine to play for Bates College. The Huskies two other postgrads — Adam Gigliotti and Sebastian Stigsby — will also play at the next level beginning this fall.

Gigliotti, a running back and linebacker from Sudbury, Massachusetts, will suit up for Springfield College, while Stigsby, a lineman from Lyngby, Denmark, will play on a full scholarship at Grand View University, a National Association of Interscholastic Athletics school in Des Moines, Iowa.

Raphael Major-Dagenais, a senior on last season’s team that did a little bit of everything for the Huskies, has returned to Canada and will play for the University of Montreal.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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