Dave St. Hilaire isn’t under the impression that things will go quite as smoothly this year as they did last season for Winthrop/Monmouth. It’s hard to expect a repeat of a 7-0 regular season, one that carried the Ramblers to within one drive of the Class D championship game.

He doesn’t think it would be wise to count his team out, however.

“We aren’t going to be as explosive,” St. Hilaire said. “We don’t have that home run hitter like we had last year with Bennett Brooks, and we may not be as dynamic, but we’re very efficient with the guys that have replaced them. … We’re kind of continuing what we did last year with a whole new set of kids.”

Last year, Winthrop/Monmouth took the pole position in the Campbell Conference and didn’t give it up. It ended with a loss to Lisbon in the closing seconds of the D South final, and this year, St. Hilaire knows it’s an open race. Oak Hill made the playoffs last year after three straight state titles. Madison moved down after a winning season in Class C. They might all be playing for second behind Wells, which moved down after winning it all in Class C.

But there will be a mix of contenders, and St. Hilaire thinks his team will be there.

“There’s a sour taste,” he said. “You look at just the exhibition against Lisbon (Aug. 25), and some kids look at it as a playoff game. … They’re hungry.”

This year’s Ramblers team could be led by its defense. It starts with a stout line of ends Noah Elegbede and Zac Wallace and tackles Evan Burnell and Luke St. Hilaire, but there’s talent at all levels. Morgan Bellemare is a true middle linebacker with range and a nose for the ball, and cornerback Cameron Gaghan and hard-hitting safety Carson Camick lead the secondary.

On offense, speedy Kane Gould and power runner Dylan Boynton will get most of the carries, Gaghan will be the primary receiver, and the attack will be run by a sophomore in Keegan Choate, who impressed during the preseason. “He was looking like the guy (last year),” coach St. Hilaire said. “But the way he’s worked, he’s ahead of the game.”

Madison is back in the Campbell Conference for the first time since 2010, after six seasons in the Pine Tree Conference, first in Class B, then Class C when football expanded to four classes.

“A lot of old-timers will see these familiar opponents,” Madison head coach Scott Franzose said. “We’re excited for new challenges.”

The Bulldogs won seven games last season, and with many starters returning, should be competitive in their new league. It begins with quarterback Evan Bess, a first team all-conference selection in the Big Ten Conference last season.

“He never stops progressing. He’s just one of those kids,” Franzose said of Bess.

Sean Whalen returns to the backfield and was an all-conference utility player last season. Tackle Max Shibley, an all-conference selection at guard last season, anchors the line, along with center Kobe Tibbetts and tackle Matt Oliver.

Defensively, Madison will go with a 4-4 base. Inside linebackers Brad Peters and Lucas Murray form the core of the Bulldogs defense.

“We’re very balanced. This is a defense we can do a lot of good things with,” Franzose said.

There’s a lot of turnover at Oak Hill, which will replace its entire offensive line and go with a new quarterback in freshman Gavin Rawstron. But coach Stacen Doucette’s teams have proven each year that it isn’t wise to write the Raiders off.

“We don’t ever talk about weaknesses here, we just talk about that we’re young in experience,” said Doucette, whose team has two returning starters on offense. “We’re just hoping to get better each practice and build some depth.”

Those starters are Darryn Bailey, a talented wideout, and Cruz Poirier, who has impressed out of the backfield. On defense, Bailey and Poirier are locks at safety and outside linebacker, and the defensive line is led by D.J. Pushard at the end.

“We play a number of kids on defense, and I think we’re pretty aggressive,” Doucette said.

In the Little Ten Conference, Mount View is coming off its first back-to-back winning seasons, but the Mustangs have a new head coach, Rick Leary. A former assistant coach at Lawrence, Messalonskee and Winslow, Leary was hired in late summer, and spent the preseason getting to know his team.

“The biggest thing I’m finding is, their hustle is just amazing,” Leary said. “We’re taking this one step at a time. They’re new to me and I’m knew to them.”

Leary said the Mustangs will go with a double wing offense and a 5-3 base defense, with some nickel and dime formations. The big thing, Leary said, is getting the team ready for the grind of a long season and ready to play physical football. So far, the players have taken to their new coach’s system.

“I think we’ve done more conditioning in the last week than in the last two years,” senior quarterback/safety Rayno Boivin said.

Boivin, along with senior linemen Jordan Brown and Matthew Keating, hope to provide leadership to a young team. The Mustangs will count on a number of sophomores and juniors in key roles this season.

Maranacook moved down to the developmental Class E after low numbers turned into a winless season. The numbers are low again, but new coach Walter Polky said being in Class E with other teams in a similar position will allow the team to focus more on rebuilding and improving until numbers rise again.

“Our team is very sophomore-dominated. … For our situation right now, it’s very, very helpful,” said Polky, whose team does have a trio of versatile running backs in Garit Laliberte, Dylan Burroughs and Dakota DeMott. “It definitely helps with the competition being closer, with the mindset that you have a chance to win every game.”

In the Evergreen League, Kents Hill School is looking to turn the page after a winless 2016 season. The Huskies could be on the upswing; linemen Leander Strathmann, Dean Chamberlin and Stuart Vine are all 240 pounds or more, and the team got a boost from linebacker, running back and Lewiston High School transfer Gordon Beckwith.

“Our goal is to be the most physical team anybody in the Evergreen League plays this year,” coach Steve Shukie said. “We have great size up front and really want to push other teams around.”

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