Ainthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football player is wrapped up by Nokomis defenders during an Aug. 23 scrimmage in Winthrop. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Another team found its way off a losing skid this past weekend.

One week after the Messalonskee football team won its first game since 2018, Nokomis earned its first victory since 2019, beating Hampden Academy 28-7 to improve to 1-2.

The Warriors won the Class C championship with a senior-laden team in 2018, then fell to 0-8 in 2019 as graduation took its toll. For the first time since hoisting the Gold Ball, Nokomis walked off the field a winner, and coach Jake Rogers said the game came as a relief for his team.

“I think the kids just needed to get that off their back,” he said. “Every week, we’ve been right there.”

Nokomis had chances in each of its first two games, but couldn’t finish the job. The Warriors lost 14-7 to Westbrook in Week 1, and led in the second half before losing 7-6 to Belfast in Week 2.

“I’ve seen it before with teams that are struggling to get that first win. That old mantra of playing not to lose, and it actually makes you lose,” Rogers said. “And I feel we were there.”

Rogers said he could sense his team pressing.

“We don’t see it during the practices, but we definitely notice it during the games,” he said. “It’s tough. They’re high school kids, they haven’t played in a year. … The last time we played, we were oh-fer. That has a strain on the kids when the moment’s there and things aren’t going right.”

Nokomis made the adjustments to ace the moment this time, however. The Warriors eased their troubles with snaps by going from shotgun under center, and made an effort to run the ball more. Nokomis had only three non-quarterback runs in Week 2 against Belfast, but leaned more heavily on tailbacks A.J. Leali (12 carries, 77 yards) and Isaiah Morin (eight carries, 40 yards, two touchdowns) to find more offensive production.

“We adapted,” Rogers said. “It’s just finding different kids, instead of relying on the same one or two guys to bail us out when we need something. We found a couple of extra kids on Saturday.”

Just as Messalonskee’s victory opened the door for more success — the Eagles beat Brewer 26-7 Saturday to improve to 2-1 — Rogers is hoping his team will flourish with the pressure now off.

“That’s the biggest thing. Just play looser,” he said. “During practice they play so loose and free, and that was kind of what I was preaching to them at halftime, because we were as tight as tight could be.”

 

• • •

Winslow defensive end Bailey Waldie, left, tries to tackle MCI quarterback Kyle Hall, during a football game Saturday at Gerry Poulin Memorial Field in Winslow. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

MCI and Winslow had more to worry about on Saturday than just each other. A complete lack of cloud cover and temperatures that climbed over 80 degrees had players on both sides fighting to stay cool, stay hydrated and deal with cramps as the game wore on.

“It was pretty tough,” said Winslow senior Evan Bourget, who ran nine times for 129 yards and a touchdown in the Black Raiders’ 44-8 victory. “Even before the game, I was sweating bullets. We kept getting our water bottles and sprayed them down our backs and down our chests, and we had wet cloths and ice bags on. … It was, for sure, one of the hottest days we’ve had so far.”

Black Raiders co-coaches Wes Littlefield and Pete Bolduc said they saw the forecast early in the week and planned accordingly.

“We started coaching on Tuesday for it, about how to hydrate and how to eat and preparation,” Bolduc said. “You’re pretty much guaranteed here at Poulin Field, the first Saturday you play, she’s going to be a scorcher.”

“It’s in the history,” Littlefield said. “You can’t help it.”

 

• • •

Gardiner running back Cole Brann is met with resistance at the line of scrimmage against Cape Elizabethl during high school football action Saturday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Gardiner had its hands full going into its game Saturday night with Cape Elizabeth, but the Tigers saw the task get even tougher as the game went on. Due to both illness and injuries suffered during the game, the Tigers had to play parts or most of the game, a 52-7 loss, without five starters.

Coach Pat Munzing said it’s tougher this season than in years past to move players around and expect everything to work. It’s especially difficult when the opponent is as deep and talent-rich as the Capers are.

“You really have to be flexible, and be able to have all these moving parts,” Munzing said. “What’s been hard is with the loss of last year and trying to get kids up to speed now, we don’t have that extra time to be able to train kids multiple positions, because you’re trying to get them caught up to speed on what they had missed before.”

One of the toughest losses for the Tigers was that of junior Cole Brann, a top defensive back and receiver and the team’s punter and kick returner, who went down in the first half. Munzing said shifting players to different positions can also affect their role in the gameplan.

“It’s hard to really kind of hide kids or adjust schemes (at the) last minute that you had worked all week on,” Munzing said. “This kid was really zoomed in on watching No. 2 run down the seam, now all of a sudden he’s playing free safety on the weak side, not even focused on (No. 2).

“It’s hard just trying to get them up to where they should be … and then you start having the injury bug kind of bite you, and now you’re starting to shuffle again.”

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