Winslow football players work through a drill during an Aug. 24 practice in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

After not playing in 2020, Maine high school football teams faced a lot of uncertainty as the game resumed last fall. Once the action began, though, familiar faces emerged among central Maine’s best.

Lawrence. Cony. Skowhegan. Winslow. Although none of them produced what one might call a dominant season in 2021, those teams were in their familiar positions as contenders in a season where the familiar was frequently thrown by the wayside.

“It was a wild year, and there was uncertainty all the way, but once we were on the field, we had some great battles,” said Cony head coach B.L. Lippert. “Now, we’re back and ready again a year later, and it’s the first time in three years we’ve really had the season arrive smoothly and without any interruptions.”

There’s certainly a bigger sense of sanity as the 2022 season arrives — and the local teams that provided some order to Class B and Class C football last year appear to be up to their old (and winning) habits again as a new season dawns in the Pine Tree State.

Always competitive in Class B North, Cony, Lawrence and Skowhegan were once again in the mix in 2021. That doesn’t look to be all that different in 2022 with the Rams, Bulldogs and River Hawks picked by coaches to be among the top teams in the league this year.

Ranked No. 1 by nine of the 10 coaches in the Class B North is Skowhegan, which finished the season 5-5 a year ago. Yet that mark doesn’t tell the full story for the River Hawks, who lost their five games by a combined 37 points and fell by just one to eventual regional champion Windham in the regional semifinals.


Additionally, Skowhegan also returns the overwhelming majority of its roster. On offense, the River Hawks have a loaded passing game featuring quarterback Andrew Savage and receivers Marshall Easler and Quintcey McCray; defensively, the team boasts three All-KVAC first-teamers: defensive end Kyle LePage, linebacker Hunter McEwen and utility man Tyler Annis.

“We really finished strong last year and had a great end to the year, and we had a great offseason this year,” said Skowhegan head coach Ryan Libby. “The league is expecting a lot of us, and I expect us to put that expectation on our shoulders and show them what we’re made of.”

Lawrence, which fell to Windham in overtime of last year’s Class B North title game, has a great shot to earn another appearance in the regional final this year. The Bulldogs have a potential Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist in senior Parker Higgins, who ran for more than 1,500 yards last season.

A difficult schedule for Lawrence begins with a home battle against Skowhegan this weekend. The Bulldogs had the toughest schedule in Class B last year with their opponents winning 61.22 percent of their games, and with a slate that also includes Bonny Eagle and Leavitt, John Hersom’s team has another gauntlet in 2022.

Lawrence running back Parker Higgins runs against Messalonskee during an Oct. 22, 2021 game at Keyes Field in Fairfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Playing some of the teams we’ve played over the years, that’s something that’s really prepared us for the playoffs,” Hersom said. “We want to be challenged each week, and we feel our schedule this year will do that and will have us ready and peaking toward playoff time.”

Lippert’s Cony Rams, always a threat to make a deep playoff run, are in position to do so again this fall. The Rams have a large roster of 60-plus players, though they must replace three stud All-KVC first-teamers in Adam Baugh, Ashton Dennett and Gaziano Award winner Casey Mills.


Cony’s opponents this season will be tasked with stopping a two-quarterback offense. Davyn Flynn excelled under center last year after taking over for injured starter James Presti early in the season, and Dom Napolitano was equally as impressive later in the year after Flynn suffered an injury of his own.

“At the heart of it, those two kids are competitors and want to win football games,” Lippert said. “They’re both kids who are really comfortable with (rotating at quarterback), but they also know they can help the team in other ways if we put them somewhere else. You’ll see both of them at the position a lot for us.”

Cony’s biggest rival, Gardiner, is back in Class B North after playing in tough Class C South in 2021. For the Tigers, it will be the first time playing at home since 2019 after COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 season and field renovations forced the team to play home games 30 miles north at Messalonskee High School a year ago.

Stepping up a class is never easy, but Gardiner has the pieces in place to hold its own this fall. The Tigers return 10 of their 11 starters on defense, and they also have a pair of seasoned offensive players in quarterback Wyatt Chadwick and running back Colton Dube. The offensive line, head coach Pat Munzing said, should take a big step forward.

“One of the toughest things last year was that we could never get any consistency from our offensive line,” Munzing said. “That’s been a focus for us this year, getting those guys to develop as a corps. Now, a lot of those guys have taken that step forward, and that’s one thing that has us really excited about the season.”

Gardiner football coach Patrick Munzing talks to the Tigers during an Aug. 19 practice on Hoch Field at Gardiner Area High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Elsewhere in Class B North, Messalonskee has some rebuilding work to do after the loss of a massive senior class that snapped a 22-game losing streak dating back to 2017. Yet the Eagles, who went 3-6 last year, have key defenders returning in defensive backs Garrett Card and Sam Dube.


Rounding out the local teams in Class B is Mt. Blue, which has a new head coach in Matt Friedman. The Cougars possess a potent dual-threat quarterback leading the offense in senior Jayden Meader and also bring back Hayden Dippner and Maurice Romanyshyn in the run game.

One class below, Winslow is looking to repeat as the champion in C North. That will by no means be an easy assignment for the Black Raiders, who lost co-head coach Pete Bolduc tragically in the offseason — and must replace a regular 100-yard rusher in Evan Bourget and four burly offensive lineman in Will Harvey, Joseph Pfingst, Allan Rogers and Owen Schuchardt.

Nevertheless, it’s Winslow, and whenever it’s a fall Saturday afternoon at Poulin Field, success is expected from the Black Raiders. Matt Quirion, who complemented Bourget in the running game last year, is back, as is veteran quarterback Jared Newgard. Wes Littlefield’s team also has two solid returning lineman in Joe Lessa and Jaxon Wiegand.

“We’re replacing 12 seniors and a lot of linemen, and that’s always a tough thing to have to do,” said Littlefield, who has taken over full head-coaching duties. “We’re going to be young up front, but we’ve got some good returning starters and a group to work with.”

Messalonskee and Brunswick compete during an Aug. 27 scrimmage in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Whereas many of the traditional contenders in central Maine retained their places at or near the top last season, another, Maine Central Institute, had a bit of a down year. The Huskies, who were 58-11 with two state titles and five regional crowns from 2014-19, had their first losing season in nine years as they finished 2-5.

That drop-off, co-head coach Tom Bertrand said, was one that those in the MCI program expected as they looked ahead at the numbers. This year, the Huskies are hoping to step back toward the forefront of Class C North with Kyle Hall at quarterback an offensive line that includes Gavin Hanscom and Wyatt Robinson.


“We certainly had a peak with those [2014-19] teams, but we knew things were going to come back to Earth a little bit,” said Bertrand, who will be splitting head-coaching duties with his eldest son, Alex, this season. “Our numbers are down a little, but we’ve had a lot of good energy and made a lot of progress over the summer and in the preseason.”

Rounding out the local Class C North field is Nokomis, which went 1-7 last year. Five of the Warriors’ seven losses came by a single score.

The leading player from that defense, linebacker Isaiah Morin, is back for Nokomis in 2022. The Warriors also bring back another key pair of tacklers in fellow seniors Aaron Mooers and Madden White. Those three players all contributed for Nokomis on offense as well last season.

Bertrand cited Winslow, Hermon and Medomak Valley as the three top teams in Class C North. Although Littlefield’s Black Raiders are the defending champions in the region, he called the Hawks, whom Winslow defeated 38-30 in last year’s Northern Maine title game, the team to beat this fall.

“They’re going to be really tough,” Littlefield said of Hermon. “They fought us in the (regional title game) last year, and they seem to be bringing back everyone with the exception of a couple kids. I’d say you have to look at them first.”

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