NEWPORT — Nokomis Regional High School football coach Jake Rogers set out cones and tackling dummies. It was a humid Monday afternoon, and his Warriors were minutes from their first practice of the new season. There were no signs of the Class C state championship won by Nokomis in 2018. Even the Warriors’ nearby home field was under construction as part of renovations coinciding with the new school going up across the street.

With the field ripped up, the Warriors will play home games at a place to be determined soon. For now, Rogers made it clear, last year was last year, and this team could not rely on past success. That’s not to say Rogers did not want the Warriors to take nothing from the 2018 championship experience.

“The guys that were here, practice like the guys that were ahead of you. Hopefully, these seniors we have now take those lessons those guys we had tried to instill,” Rogers said. “Practice fast. That makes you play fast. That’s the stuff I hope they take from last year.”

Play gets a little physical during the Messalonskee girls soccer team’s first practice Monday in Oakland. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Monday was the first day Maine high school fall sports teams could practice for the upcoming season. Football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball, cross country and golf teams across the state began workouts.

While a few teams are able to draw inspiration from a state title won last season, more are like the Messalonskee girls soccer team. The Eagles fell in the Class A North championship game to Camden Hills last fall. That loss was motivation throughout the offseason, and coach Chris DelGuidice thinks that will carry over into the regular season.

“I think it kind of lit a fire under a lot of them. It gave them the belief they could get there. So going into this (season), it’s definitely going to work in our favor,” DelGuidice said. “I saw a lot of the girls this summer were really motivated. We had a lot more numbers than we usually have throughout the summer. They’re a lot more focused, especially the first day today. They came out and it looks like most of them actually stayed on a ball most of the summer.”

Added Sarah Lowell, a Messalonskee senior captain: “Coach (DelGuidice) has already talked about it in practice, how we need to prove what we didn’t finish last year.”

Nokomis senior center/defensive end Andy Hopkins has used the Warriors state title as motivation throughout the offseason. Hopkins said the screen saver on his cell phone is a photo from the Warriors’ 13-12 win over Fryeburg Academy at Fitzpatrick Stadium in the state game last November. On the wall of his weight room at home, Hopkins has a t-shirt from that state game framed.

“It’s motivation, but not an expectation,” Hopkins said. “Hard work will get you through anything. If you play hard-nosed and you work hard every down, you’ll be successful.”

Hopkins is one of a handful of returning starters at Nokomis, where 13 seniors graduated. With a lot of young players, Rogers said the most important thing he wants to see on Day 1 of practice is effort.

“Don’t be scared. Go. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Go fast. Right out of the gate, that’s all we’re caring about. Set the tone. Everybody’s a little nervous, but don’t think about it. Get going,” Rogers said.

Monday afternoon’s practice was the Messalonskee girls soccer team’s first on the school’s brand-new artificial turf field.

“We just had our morning practice on our grass field and that was awful. Playing here is a complete change. Up here we can show good passing,” Lowell said.

Added DelGuidice: “This is just another piece to give us an edge and keep them motivated. A thing we keep talking about is, we’re not going to be the first team to lose on this pitch.”

A returning captain, Lowell was excited to get started and take on an expanded leadership role.

Teammates battle for a loose ball during the Messalonskee girls soccer team’s first practice Monday in Oakland. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

“It’s just different because there’s no one I’m looking up to. It’s just me and the other seniors. It’s pretty cool to be the ones to help our teammates,” Lowell said.

While Monday wasn’t a big day for X’s and O’s, Rogers knew he’d be able to tell right away which players came into practice ready to go.

“Right out of the stretch line, doing form run, you can see who’s been doing at least a little bit of running. That’s a good time to judge guys. You might be able to move them around (to new positions) a little bit,” Rogers said.


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