NEWPORT — When everybody else had left the Nokomis Regional High School football field following the Warriors Class C North quarterfinal loss to Maine Central Institute last October, Jake Rogers lingered. The loss meant the end of Rogers’ first season as Nokomis head coach, and he stayed and stared at the scoreboard. When he turned away, Rogers was on to the 2018 season.

“I’ve got to fix the mistakes that I made, and try to get these guys to finish the job,” Rogers said Monday afternoon, shortly before the Warriors began their first practice of the season.

Last season was one of firsts for Nokomis football. The Warriors went 6-3 for their first winning record. The quarterfinal game against MCI was the first playoff game in the program’s decade-long existence. Now, the Warriors look to ensure 2017 wasn’t a one-season blip but the start of something good.

“From the last day last year, I was ready for this year. We ended on a sour note, losing to MCI, crosstown rivals, in a playoff game. A bad taste, and I’m ready to get right back at it,” senior quarterback Andrew Haining, a starter since his freshman season, said. “It’s a little different. I think last year we had the expectation of winning. This year we have the expectation of making a deep playoff run. It’s definitely something we’ve got to get used to around here, but I think we’ve got the right guys on the team to do it.”

Rogers arrived last season after years as an assistant coach at Lawrence, one of the most successful programs in the state over the last 15 seasons. Rogers took over a program that was coming off consecutive 0-8 seasons. The players immediately responded to Rogers’ attitude and mantra of hard work. Rogers infused the Warriors with some much-needed enthusiasm, James Boyd, a senior two-way lineman, said.

“After two 0-8 seasons, some players are dragging. He brought a new energy to the program, and a lot of new drills I thought were helpful,” Boyd said.

Added Haining: “You get real good vibe of what he expects from us, and what we expect from each other. We’re ready this year.”

Now that the team has a year under Rogers, it was ready to jump into practices on Monday, the first day or the preseason.

“It makes practices a lot easier. When (Rogers is) explaining drills, we’re able to get right into it. We’re not sitting around, scratching our heads. It’s going to make practices a lot more efficient,” Boyd said.

Making the playoffs last season was a milestone the program needed, Haining said.

“It was a little different for the school. It had been a little while. Most of the people in our school hadn’t seen us win a game. We came to school the next day, and we’re in the playoffs,” Haining said. “The student body was excited, the administration, even the teaching staff, they were all pretty jacked up for it like we were.”

Even if Nokomis continues to improve, a return trip to the playoffs is not guaranteed. The Warriors face a much tougher schedule compared to last season. Seven of Nokomis’ eight opponents made the playoffs last season. The Warriors will play six teams that finished 2017 with a winning record. It begins when the Warriors host perennial power Winslow on Sept. 1, and ends Oct. 19 with the short trip down Interstate 95 one exit to Pittsfield to face rival MCI, the defending Class C state champion.

“I think that’s going to be a pretty common thread with this league. It’s tough. There’s no gimme games. You’re not looking at the schedule and chalking one up. Every week’s going to be a battle. If you don’t show up, you’re going to lose. You’d better bring your ‘A’ effort,” Rogers said.

While the success of last season may provide the Warriors confidence and something to strive towards, it by no means guarantees anything, and Rogers is quick to point that out to anybody.

“That was last year. This group has a lot to prove. It’s a whole new group, really. We lost some key guys, but I’m hoping this new group of seniors are going to fill those shoes of those leaders,” Rogers said. “They’ve got a target on their back now. They’re not sneaking up on anybody.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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