Last fall, Maine Central Institue won the Little Ten Conference title for the first time since 2000, before falling in the Class D state championship game to Oak Hill. On Monday’s first day of practice, t-shirts worn by the Huskies made the team’s goal for 2015 pretty clear.

MCI took the field on Monday afternoon wearing maroon shirts. The back of each shirt was adorned with the phrase “Champions Finish 2015,” written in gold.

“We certainly feel like we’ve got one more game to play this year, and we’ve got one goal in mind. That’s to get ourselves up to UMaine on that Friday night and finish the job that we left unfinished last year. The gold is intentional,” MCI head coach Tom Bertrand said.

The Class D state championship game will be played at the University of Maine on Friday, Nov. 20.

MCI won the conference last season and reached the second round of the playoffs in 2013, but that success hasn’t translated into a big spike in the number of football players at the Pittsfield school.

“We’re seeing the same kids. We’ve got a good group that’s come up through. We picked up some boarding students who just showed up and have never played before, but pretty much we’ve got the same crew back we had last year, plus the kids coming up from middle school,” Bertrand said.

Along with that success comes getting used to new expectations. In 2012, the Huskies were winless. Now, they enter the season as defending LTC champs.

“It is certainly something different. We talked a lot about it since the end of that season,” Bertrand said. “A lot of work had to be done. We had some success. With that success comes some new challenges, and we raised the bar a little bit.”

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With summer sessions and 7 on 7 passing leagues, many high school football teams enter the preseason with players already well-versed in offensive schemes. That’s the case at Skowhegan, where head coach Matt Friedman is entering his fourth season, and the Indians have a good grasp of his spread offense.

“I think with the summer sessions that we do, we get the basics in, especially the passing game. We’re pass-heavy in the summer. We’re always trying to tweak something and change something, so there’s always something new to focus on in preseason,” Friedman said.

The 7 on 7 leagues not only help skill players learn passing routes, it gives coaches a chance to try players in new spots.

“The thing that is does the most is, it helps us identify potential players that maybe are playing another position, but we will throw them in there one night. If they do well, then we give them a shot,” Friedman said.

Friedman said he’s interested in a couple position battles that will play out as the Indians continue their preseason workouts.

“Outside receiver, for us, we’ve probably got three or four guys fighting for two spots,” Friedman said. “On defense, cornerback is a spot where at the beginning of summer, we thought it was going to be a weakness. We’ve had some younger kids really develop and get a lot of time. They’re going to be pushing some older guys.”

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Winslow is the defending Class C state champion. Head coach Mike Siviski, now in his 31st season leading the Black Raiders, opened Monday afternoon’s practice in the gym. Siviski spent the first part of practice in front of a white board, going over offensive formation basics. It was a refresher for returning players, and an introduction for newcomers.

“You can’t do much the first two days anyway, except learn,” Siviski said.

The Black Raiders will defend their title against a conference that has a slightly different look than the previous two seasons. Along with Winslow, Belfast, Foxcroft, Hermon, Madison, Mt. Desert Island, Old Town and Waterville return to the Big Ten. Newcomers to the league are John Bapst and Oceanside. Bapst moves up from Class D, while Oceanside moves down from Class B. Camden Hills left the league and will play in the Class D Little Ten. Nokomis, which had played down in Class C the last two seasons, is now in the Class B Pine Tree Conference.

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After Monday morning’s practice, Lawrence head coach John Hersom was pleased with his team’s first workout.

“It’s a high energy (practice). First time back on the field, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of team building as we go. We’re kind of getting the groundwork, where everyone kind of knows what the expectations are,” Hersom said. “We speak about some of our traditions and some of our standards. As long as they’re on board with those things, we think the transition into the first day is going to go a little smoother.”

Teams can’t practice in full equipment until Friday, which also is the first day full contact is allowed. These first few days are spent working on fundamentals and installing plays.

“We start teaching right away. This morning was more of our defensive work. We got the boys into their positions, where we think they’ll be placed, at least initially. Now we’ll start teaching our scheme, like we did this morning,” Hersom said. “Obviously, the younger guys might not be as aware of our terminology, that kind of stuff. We hope they continue to get those repititions so that becomes more clear for them.”

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Around the state: The longest win streak in the state heading into this season is Marshwood’s 12. Winslow also was an undefeated state champion in 2014, but the Black Raiders received a bye out of the first round of their regional playoffs and played 11 games… This season, the East and West designations for the state’s two sports regions are no more. Now, high school teams will be divided by North and South. The East region is now the North, while the South region replaces the West… Medomak Valley is the only new football program in the state this year. The Panthers will play in the Little Ten Conference in Class D North.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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