When he took the job as head coach of the Nokomis Regional High School football, Jake Rogers was confident he could rebuild the Warriors. How long it would take to go from winless to contender, that part Rogers wasn’t sure.

“I knew that group had the talent. I knew it was attainable, but getting them to do it is harder than thinking it,” Rogers said.

The turnaround took just two season. Last year, the Warriors won six games, earning the first winning record in program history. This season, Nokomis won the Class C state championship with a dramtic 13-12 victory over Fryeburg Academy in the title game.

“Coach (Rogers) was hugging the gold ball on the bus ride back to school,” senior quarterback Andrew Haining said. “He does a really good job connecting with us.”

For coaching Nokomis to its first football state championship, Rogers is the Morning Sentinel Football Coach of the Year. Also considered were Scott Franzose of Madison and Nate Quirion of Mt. Blue.

This past season, Nokomis played one of the toughest schedules in Class C. Six of the eight teams the Warriors played in the regular season made the playoffs. Nokomis faced the top three seeded teams in the Big 11 Conference, as well as the top seed in the South, Leavitt. It was a midseason loss at Leavitt that showed Rogers the team was heading in the right direction.

“Just the heart we showed playing defense at Leavitt, I said if we really start to dial it up, we could be a force to be reckoned with when it counts,” Rogers said.

From that point on, Nokomis lost just one more game, 24-21 in overtime at Maine Central Institute in the regular season finale. The Warriors closed the season with three straight close playoff wins, over MCI and Hermon in the regionals, then the win over Fryeburg in the state game at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium. A key was preperation, Haining said.

“Every practice, (Rogers) comes in with a practice plan down to the minute, and we stick to it,” Haining said. “I think he was the perfect guy. He showed us a new way of playing. He’s detail-oriented. I was way more focused on the small details than I was before. He made us realize it’s the small things you do that other teams don’t that can be the difference.”

When Rogers took over Nokomis, the Warriors hadn’t won a game in two seasons. While Nokomis began to win last season, it was this season in which Rogers saw his team finally playing with confidence.

“Kids try to tell you they’re confident, but until you see it on the field, it’s just bluster,” Rogers said. “The confidence kept growing and the attitude on the field changed. It got to the point a guy would make a great solo tackle, but not show a lot of emotion. Maybe a fist bump. Because he knows he’s supposed to do it and he can do it.”

Lawrence coach John Hersom is an influence on Rogers, who coached under Hersom for years with the Bulldogs. Another one of Rogers’ coaching influences became apparent with some of Nokomis’ play calling this season, the late Dick McGee, who coached for years at Colby and was around the Lawrence program in Rogers’ early days as a coach.

“Dick would say over and over, ‘Throw the drag route.’ I remembered that, and the drag route was a pretty popular play for us,” Rogers said. “Early in my career, I was with Dick a lot. I had a lot of good times with him.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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