As the new head football coach at Messalonskee High School, Walter Polky needs to learn the ins and outs of a new conference. Jordan DeMillo, Polky’s successor at Maranacook Community High School, has to learn the ins and outs of a new way of playing football.

After two years coaching Maranacook in the Class E developmental league, Polky recently accepted the Messalonskee coaching job in the competitive Pine Tree Conference Class B. Replacing Polky at Maranacook is DeMillo, a former assistant who is now charged with leading the Black Bears into the newly created 8-man football division. With the addition of 8-man football in Maine, the Class E developmental league was dissolved. Maranacoook will play in the 8-man large school division next fall, alongside Mt. Ararat, Gray-New Gloucester, Yarmouth and Ellsworth.

“It’s very different,” DeMillo said. “You have to realize it’s an offensive game. You’d love to think your defense is going to be great, but I’ve been watching film of games from other states, and every game is in the 40s and 50s. They’re close games but extremely high-scoring.”

Maranacook football coach Walter Polky looks on during a 2017 practice in Readfield. Polky was named the next football coach at Messalonskee High School. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Maranacook’s switch to 8-man was one reason Polky was interested in the Messalonskee job, he said.

“I’m not an 8-man football coach,” Polky, who previously coached at Husson University and Spruce Mountain High School, said. “The biggest factor was the size of (Messalonskee). There’s some great coaches in the league and great competition in the league. I think Class B is the most competitive class in the state.”

Polky takes over a Messalonskee team that went 0-8 last season. However, prior to that the Eagles enjoyed a run of nine playoff appearances in 10 seasons, reaching the conference semifinals six times. Messalonskee athletic director Chad Foye said Polky stood out in a field of eight candidates.

“His experience was one thing,” Foye said. “Talking with him, his enthusiasm for football really shined through.”

Maranacook athletic director Brant Remington said DeMillo, a teacher at the school, was a natural choice to assume the head coach position.

“He’s coached them before. He already knows all the kids. It should be a smooth transition,” Remington said.

As DeMillo continues to study 8-man football, he said teaching fundamentals will be a priority.

“In 11-man, you can make a mistake. You can take a play off. You shouldn’t, but the play can still be successful,” DeMillo said. “In 8-man, you have to be fundamentally sound every play. The basics have to be done right or nothing will work.”

DeMillo plans to attend an 8-man football coaching clinic on May 11 at Bates College in Lewiston. He and some other 8-man coaches around the state hope to have a 5 on 5 summer passing league to mirror the 7 on 7 summer leagues employed by traditional 11-man teams. DeMillo expects to have between 20 and 25 players on the Maranacook roster in the fall. The Black Bears finished last season with 18, he said. With two dozen playing 8-man, young and inexperienced players will not be asked to take the field against more physically developed upperclassmen, DeMillo said.

“We had freshmen going up against seniors. They got roughed up. If I get 22, 24 kids, I can do a JV team. Just getting those guys experience like that does wonders,” DeMillo said.

At Messalonskee, Polky hopes to see a surge in participation, too. The Eagles ran primarily from a wing-T offensive set over the last six seasons under coach Brad Bishop. Polky plans to install a spread offense. That doesn’t mean Messalonskee fans can expect the Eagles to sling the ball around the field 60 times per game.

“I’m a spread guy,” Polky said. “The power game we have will be different than what they’ve seen in the past. There’s times in football you have to pound the ball. It will be like that until the end of time.”

Messalonskee spent all of the 2018 on the road, as Veterans Field was undergoing renovations, including an artificial turf field and new eight-lane track. Next fall, the Eagles will play at their upgraded facility.

“Friday nights down there are going to be unbelievable. It’s top notch,” Polky said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM




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