Two strong programs are looking to make their way back to the top of the Campbell Conference and Class D. And they’re confident they have the quarterbacks to do it.

For Winthrop/Monmouth, which made the conference final two seasons ago, the key will be leaning on the right arm of Keegan Choate. The junior took over as a starter last season and quickly proved to be a fit for the position, leading the Ramblers back to the playoffs both through the air and on the ground.

“He’s our weapon. Right now, he’s our best runner, and he threw for over 1,400 yards last year,” coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “I see him throwing more this year. He’s very, very good, and he’s got some guys to throw to.”

That cast includes a big play option in receiver Ryan Baird, as well as tight end Evan Burnell and wingback Dylan Lajoie.

“We can throw the ball, we’re much better pass blocking right now than we are run blocking,” St. Hilaire said. “We’re improving on the run blocking, and we still have to find some running backs.”

The biggest obstacle for Winthrop/Monmouth, which added two Hall-Dale players, is experience. Five of the 11 defensive starters at the first scrimmage hadn’t played a down before.

“I envision us similar to last year, hopefully better at the start,” St. Hilaire said. “We’ve got so many weapons, and so many skilled guys at different positions. It’s just getting those guys more time, more reps.”

Oak Hill has quarterback taken care of as well with Gavin Rawstron. A starter off the bat as a freshman, Rawstron showed poise that belied his youth and now is poised for another step forward as a sophomore.

“He’s seen this movie before, so I think the leadership role will increase,” coach Stacen Doucette said. “The kids have given him the keys to the bus.”

The Raiders will look for players to emerge as Rawstron’s go-to targets after the graduation of Darryn Bailey, and the running backs and offensive line are young. There’s more experience on the defensive side, where lineman Reid Cote and linebacker Ethan Richard (the offensive line’s anchor at center) are the leaders and linebacker James Borkowski and linemen Cole Beaule and Kyle Stilkey will be key players.

“We need to find our identity. That’s what we need to do as coaches,” Doucette said. “I think that’s why we improved last year, because we did find our identity, and I think that’s exactly what we’re going to do this year. We’re going to hold on in the beginning.”

Madison lost impact players in all three phases of the game with the graduation of Sean Whalen, a Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist, and Evan Bess. A big senior class could help the Bulldogs stay in the playoff hunt.

“We’re losing a lot up front too, with Matt Oliver and Max Shibley graduating,” coach Scott Franzose said. “We have senior leaders. We’re still working on experience.”

Senior Eric Wescott moves from running back to quarterback in Madison’s spread offense. Brad Peters moves from the line to running back, and Jacob Meader returns as a wideout. Guard Lucas Murray leads Madison’s offensive line.

Murray, Peters, and Meader lead the Bulldogs defense at linebacker, with Wescott at strong safety.

In the Little Ten Conference, Rick Leary enters his second season as head coach at Mount View with an enthusiastic group of players eager to earn the Mustangs first playoff bid since 2015.

“I think we can be in it if we stay healthy,” Leary said.

Senior running back Kyle Noble could be an impact player for the Mustangs, and will be joined in the backfield by Jack Valleau. Tight end Paul Nadeau is also a senior leader at Mount View.

“We had a good offseason of working out, and that’s never happened before,” Nadeau said.

Maranacook will look to keep the momentum going after bouncing back from a winless 2016 in Class D and reaching the Class E final. Despite low numbers, there’s plenty of continuity; 10 of 11 defensive starters are back, a group that includes linebacker and leading tackler Isaac Wilson, and the Black Bears also bring back their leading rusher in Garit Laliberte and a fullback and linebacker in Dakota DeMott that’s one of the team’s leaders and best all-around players.

More teams dropped down to Class E, so the Black Bears will look to win against a deeper group of competition.

“They don’t have a lot of football experience, so these double sessions and the controlled scrimmages get some really meaningful reps for them, so they can see some live action,” coach Walter Polky said.

It’s a similar story at Kents Hill, which also doesn’t have much depth but brings back many of its top players. Seven defensive starters and six offensive starters, including 1,000-yard rusher Gordon Beckwith, return, as does junior quarterback Nick Sebastian, who took over the starting job last year and will look for more consistency this season.

“The passing attack must improve after last year’s reliance on the run game almost exclusively,” coach Steve Shukie said. “The defense finished the year very strong last year, and looks to build on that despite having to replace three starters on the defensive line.”

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