The question in Class C football this season isn’t if any team can unseat two-time defending state champion Winslow but rather if any team can actually beat the Black Raiders?

Winslow enters the season with a 22-game win streak. The Black Raiders haven’t lost a game since the 2013 state championship. Coming off a season in which Winslow won every game by at least two touchdowns, the Black Raiders are again one of the favorites in Class C. Foxcroft Academy and Mt. Desert Island are likely Winslow’s top competition for the Big Ten Conference title.

At Winslow, the win streak isn’t a concern.

“It could (end) the next game,” coach Mike Siviski said. “We don’t talk about it that much. The kids know that. Everybody is after us, we know that.”

While the Black Raiders lost a number of key players, including four-year starter Alec Clark and three-year starter Jake Trask, the Class of 2016 didn’t leave the cupboard bare when it marched at graduation last spring. Winslow returns six starters on offense and seven on defense, as well as some key special teamers.

Winslow’s defense posted seven shutouts in 11 games last season, and looks strong again. It starts at linebacker, where Kenny Rickard and Patrick Hopkins return after combining for more than 110 tackles and seven sacks last season. Nate Gagnon and Ryan Fredette are back at defensive end. Dylan Hutchinson returns to the secondary.

Offensively, Winslow returns the top rushing attack in the conference. Nate St. Amand and Rickard combined to run for more than 2,200 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. That duo is joined by Fredette and Hopkins, with Hutchins at split end and Nate Gagnon at tight end. Junior Ryan Gagnon takes over at quarterback.

“He’s a good all-around quarterback,” Siviski said.

Right guard Cam Morrison returns as the anchor of the offensive line. A few players could play multiple positions on the line and in the backfield, Siviski said.

“I’m really happy with the flexibility of our kids, and the fact that they can play more than one position,” Siviski said.

Ryan Gagnon is back to kick for the Black Raiders. St. Amand and Hutchinson are dangerous kick returners.

Madison made the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2015. While there are just 31 players in the program, including eight from Carrabec, the Bulldogs have the talent to make a third consecutive trip to the postseason.

“We definitely feel we’ve had some success, but it’s a clean slate,” coach Scott Franzose said. “It comes down to details and how hard do we want to work?”

All-conference running back Nick Morales returns after running for more than 1,000 yards last season, as does all-conference wide receiver Mitch Jarvais. Taking over at quarterback is junior Evan Bess, while Sean Whalen will see some carries.

The offensive line at Madison is rebuilt around returning starter Matt Brown at tackle. Guards Max Shibley and Kobe Tibbetts, and tackle Tristan Small, saw some playing time last season. Center Aaron Morgan is a converted running back.

“(Morgan) is doing a great job,” Franzose said.

Defensively, the Bulldogs will go with a 4-3 front and base cover two coverage, allowing the athletes to read and react.

“We’re focusing on fundamentals. Let those guys use their speed,” Franzose said.

Morgan returns at linebacker for the Bulldogs, while Small and Jarvais lead the defensive line.

Waterville is young, and will count on a lot of sophomores and juniors as it looks to improve on last season’s 2-6 record.

“The sophomore class is going to be making a lot of hay. It’s a very talented, very dedicated group,” coach Matt Gilley said.

A few of those sophomores, including guard/defensive tackle John Evans and tight end/linebacker Cooper Hart, saw playing time as freshmen last season. Among the other sophomores expected to contribute this season are running back/linebacker Nick Wildhaber and quarterback Jack Thompson.

“We have physical ability. It’s how quickly do the young guys get used to the speed of varsity,” Gilley said.

The Purple Panthers do have some senior leadership, too. Zach Smith moves to left tackle from tight end to help the offensive line. Theo Heaven will play fullback.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarcaykMTM

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