NEWPORT — The Nokomis Regional High School football team’s defense didn’t play poorly in the regular season. The Warriors never allowed more than 28 points, and that was in a season-opening loss to Winslow. Once the playoffs started, though, the Nokomis defense became a brick wall.

In three games played in the Class C North playoffs, the Warriors allowed just 12 points. Not 12 points per game, 12 points, period. Nokomis was at its best against the top two scoring teams in the Big 11 Conference. In Saturday’s conference championship game, the Warriors shut down Hermon, a team that averaged a league-high 35.8 points per game. Nokomis took a 13-6 win to earn a spot in the Class C state championship game.

“I’d say we’re starting to work as a team. I know personally, I got a little selfish during the season,” senior defensive lineman James Boyd said. “But I’ve realized my role in the defense. I think when we all play our roles, do our jobs, we just click.”

Saturday’s state game is the first in Nokomis football history. The Warriors (7-4) will take on Fryeburg Academy (10-1) at 2:30 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

The reason for Nokomis’ defensive improvement is simple, coach Jake Rogers said. The playoff success is the result of a season spent learning and adjusting.

“They’re just seeing it faster, reacting faster. Linebackers are coming downhill. Corners are squeezing and making plays at the line of scrimmage. They’re playing it the right way,” Rogers said.

In the regional final win over Hermon, the Warriors held the prolific Hawks to 163 yards, 75 of those coming on quarterback Garrett Trask’s second quarter touchdown run. In pass coverage, Nokomis was exceptional, holding the Hawks to minus-4 yards through the air.

“They weren’t intimidated and stuck together. We had a couple instances where we could’ve crumbled a little bit. We didn’t hang our heads after (Trask) scored. They just said mount back up and get after it, and they did,” Rogers said.

Trask threw just one interception in the regular season. In the conference championship game, the Warriors picked him off three times, while also forcing a pair of fumbles. That helped Nokomis avenge a 25-7 regular-season loss to Hermon.

“We weren’t a team then. Everyone was selfish and doing their own thing,” senior cornerback Chance Graves said of the regular-season loss to Hermon. “Do your job, man. That’s about it for us.”

Added Rogers: “We struggled to get (turnovers) early in the regular season, but now all of a sudden, the weather’s getting a little bad and we’re finding opportunities.”

The No. 4 seed in the region, Nokomis began the playoffs with a 38-6 win over No. 5 Medomak Valley. The Warriors held the Panthers to 112 yards while forcing a pair of turnovers. Nokomis followed that by holding top-seed and defending state champ Maine Central Institute to 105 yards in a 13-0 win over the Huskies. The game came just two weeks after MCI beat Nokomis 24-21 in overtime in the regular-season finale. That night, the Huskies gained 200 yards on the ground. In the rain-soaked rematch, Nokomis held the Huskies to 48 yards rushing.

Along with a new commitment to playing team defense, the Warriors study their opponent, looking for tendencies. They also self-scout, looking for areas in which they can improve.

“We do a lot of film breakdown on Mondays. We identify plays they like to work a lot, and weaknesses in our defense we need to hone in to reestablish and counter that team’s offense,” Boyd said.

There’s also been a focus on fundamentals, particularly on the defensive line.

“We’re tying to focus on staying low. We had some trouble with that early in the season, but we worked on it the last couple weeks, and it’s worked out for us,” Boyd said.

Fryeburg presents another challenge. The Raiders average just under 29 points per game, and are strong on the ground and in the air.

“They’re fast. Real fast, across the board. Their backs, linemen, everything,” Boyd said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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.

filed under: