The Winthrop/Monmouth football team came into the season with lofty expectations after returning the bulk of a team that advanced to the Campbell Conference Class D semifinals last season, where it gave eventual state champ Oak Hill more than just a few fits in a 13-10 setback.

The Ramblers have done nothing to quell expectations early after jumping out to a 2-0 start — out-scoring perennial contender Lisbon and Traip 50-19.

Next up? The home opener Friday night against Dirigo (1-0) at Maxwell Field.

The Ramblers will also receive a boost with the return of wide receiver Bennett Brooks and outside linebacker/guard Jack Vickerson. Both players were dinged up in a season-opening 31-12 victory over Lisbon. Brooks had four receptions — two for touchdowns — and more than 100 receiving yards against the Greyhounds.

“And we think Jack is the best special teams player in the conference, too,” St. Hilaire said.

Winthrop/Monmouth quarterback Matt Ingram has thrown for 315 yards in two games while fullback Alec Brown has rushed for 201.

The Cougars have just 22 players on the roster, including first-year starting quarterback Luke Lueders, who won a three-player competition for the job in preseason. Hunter White and Cooper Chiasson lead a talented backfield as well.

Here’s a look at the matchup:

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Maxwell Field, Winthrop

Last season: Winthrop/Monmouth 12, Dirigo 7

Dirigo coach Jim Hersom on Winthrop/Monmouth: “This is a real good team. They have a lot of veterans and they look really sharp already. Offensively, they give you a lot of weapons you have to be concerned about. Their quarterback (Matt Ingram) had a great game against Lisbon. Defensively, they get to the ball. I think they are living up to what they are capable of doing.”

Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire on Dirigo: “They are a tough team. They have some physical, quick kids who can fly all around the field. We’ll have to be ready for what they want to do.”

Keys for Winthrop/Monmouth:

• Get Dirigo throwing. The Cougars are a run-first team, and with a new quarterback behind center, the Ramblers will need to force him to make plays in the air.

• Watch out for the play action. The Ramblers, St. Hilaire said, got burned on the play action play in a 19-7 win over Traip last week. “We have an aggressive defense and sometimes the play action can hurt that,” he said.

• Take advantage of its depth. Winthrop/Monmouth is much deeper than Dirigo on both sides of the ball. The Ramblers started different offensive and defensive linemen, which helped them wear down the Rangers.

Keys for Dirigo:

• Go for a drive (or two, three …). The Cougars run the Wing-T offense and the more long drives they can string together, the longer it can keep the Ramblers’ offense on the sidelines.

• Get to the ball (and tackle). The Ramblers can hurt opposing teams in a variety of ways so the Cougars will need to rely on a strong ball-hawking defense. “We need to get a number of people to the ball,” Hersom said.

• Weather an emotional storm. This is the Ramblers’ home opener, so emotions will be high on their sideline. The Cougars will need to match that intensity and not let the game get away early.

Bill Stewart — 621-5618

[email protected]

Twitter: @billstewartMTM

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.