AUGUSTA — The first time the Mt. Blue Cougars saw Cony’s Taylor Heath line up behind center, they saw panic in his eyes.

“I was scrambling around. I didn’t know what to do with the ball,” Heath said, describing his first start as Cony’s quarterback in last year’s season opener.

The last time they saw him — after the Cougars rallied to a stunning 35-34 win in the PTC B quarterfinals — Heath had a very different look in his eyes — one of shock and anger.

When they see him again for the season opener Friday at Alumni Field, the shock will be gone. But Heath promises the anger will still be there, mixed with equal parts determination.

“Last year, I came off the field, I was angry. I had a lot of emotions,” Heath said. “This year, I’m ready to give it back to them.”

Now a senior, Heath essentially learned on the job last year and still ended up being one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, accounting for over 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns passing and rushing.

A receiver his sophomore year, Heath won a battle with Anthony Brunelle for the starting QB job during 7-on-7 scrimmages last summer.

He was excited when Cony coach B.L. Lippert texted him the news that the job was his. One of his next emotions was a hint of trepidation once he remembered he would be following in the footsteps of Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Ben Lucas and all-state QB Mitchell Caron.

“I knew that I had big shoes to fill,” he said. “I was nervous, but I calmed down a little bit. Coach Lip had a lot to do with that. He told me to forget about the past (and) just go out and do your thing.”

“I knew he would be nervous,” Lippert added. “But he’s learned the offense really well. Our offense requires some quick decision making, some math to count the number of advantages we have. That’s something that’s a strength of his. He’s gained a lot of confidence in that… He isn’t consumed with worrying about filling shoes. He’s done that now for a year plus.”

A 33-27 win over Messalonskee in Week 2 — in which he threw for 379 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score — helped erase any doubts. Despite various skill position players moving in and out of the lineup, the game slowed down for Heath and he started making better decisions more consistently, Lippert said.

Another key was staying in the pocket more, something Heath said he started doing when he learned to put his faith in his offensive line.

“It was trusting my guys up front mostly,” Heath said. “When I came in last year, I didn’t know many of them because a lot of them were seniors. I wasn’t friends with any of them. I didn’t trust them. But as the season went on, I got closer and closer with them and gained some trust.”

With the entire line graduated, that process has started again for Heath. The biggest difference this time is he grew up as friends and playing with most of the new line and started with a higher level of trust.

While the line is new, Heath is glad there will be a familiar face on the other end of his passes this year. Junior receiver Jordan Roddy was leading the league in receiving when he was sidelined by a broken pinkie three games into last season. This year, Heath and the Rams will be trying to get their most athletic playmaker the ball in space to make plays.

“That helps a ton,” Heath said. “Having a kid like Jordan Roddy who can basically beat any kid in the league one-on-one is just big. He’s my go-to guy.”

“We’ve grown pretty close playing basketball and football together,” Roddy said. “He’s good at what he does, and he can get me the ball.”

One of the reasons he can get Roddy the ball is Heath himself was a wide receiver just two years ago. It’s an advantage he had over predecessors Lucas and Caron when he took over at quarterback.

“I think learning the system from a wide receiving standpoint might actually be advantageous because you know what it looks like out there running those routes,” Lippert said. “As a sophomore, he was able to get his feet wet playing some varsity minutes. With that transition to quarterback, he had that experience knowing what they’re looking at.”

Another advantage Heath has running the Rams’ spread offense is it allows him to survey the defense before the ball is snapped. If he doesn’t recognize the coverage, Lippert will have it diagnosed for him.

Learning from a former quarterback who developed Lucas and Caron can be a blessing. But it also means being subject to even more intense scrutiny than some QBs, and Heath knows it.

“You get a lot more attention from him. When you make mistakes, he’ll let you hear it,” he said.

Lippert acknowledged his expectations are high, but also tempers those expectations by pointing out that having a productive quarterback in Cony’s system isn’t as simple as just plugging a good athlete into the position and calling 30-40 passing plays in a game.

“(Heath) is a great athlete. He’s accurate. He’s become a good decision-maker for us,” Lippert said.

“He set the bar pretty high for himself last year as a year one starter, so you’re thinking in year two, he’s really going to come into his own,” he added.

The only bar Heath is concerned with clearing this year is the one between the regular season and another trip to the postseason.

“I just want to get into the playoffs, because if we get into the playoffs, anything can happen,” he said. “I think we can beat any team in our league.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33