The first game of the season won’t necessarily make or destroy a high school football team, but it’s sure to be a tone setter.
“Winning this first game is a huge confidence boost for any program, against anyone,” Scarborough coach Packy Malia said.
That would certainly apply to the Red Storm if they could beat defending Class A champion Thornton Academy at 7pm on Friday at Scarborough High.
Thornton beat Scarborough twice last season, 51-0 in the regular season and 28-12 in the state semi-finals, a game Scarborough led 12-7 at halftime.
“They pushed us to the limit last year in that semi-final game and they have a lot of returning kids,” Kezal said. “It’s quite a challenge. And, it’s on the road, a tough place to play. It’s a big game at the start of the season.
Thornton is 33-1 overall over the past three seasons with two state championships (2018 and 2021). His only loss was in the 2019 title match against Bonny Eagle. “We have also been in the bottom four teams overall (in Class A) since 2016, longer than TA or Bonny Eagle,” Malia said.
TWO CLASS B The Southern games will give a good overview of the top four programs. On Friday, Marshwood begins his quest for a fifth straight state championship in South Portland at 7 p.m. The following night at 6 p.m., Kennebunk hosts Portland at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field – the Rams’ home away from home while their new artificial surface pitch is being installed. . Portland was undefeated in the regular season a year ago.
Marshwood manager Alex Rotsko said he considered South Portland to be one of the top four teams.
“I would think so. They were a playoff team last year,” Rotsko said. “They look pretty athletic on film and their quarterback (Jaelen Jackson) is really athletic. He is key to their offense, no doubt.
Marshwood will start Cullen St. Cyr’s second year at quarterback. Rotsko said the Hawks “struggled in both of our scrums.”
While winning the opener is “always important for team morale,” Rotsko said, he also pointed to his 2021 squad that went 5-3 in the regular season and didn’t come through until a victory in the regional semi-final at Kennebunk.
“If we learned a lesson last year, it’s that if you keep working on it, you’ll get better,” Rotsko said. “If you don’t win the first game, it’s not the end of the world. You still have seven weeks to prepare, and the good thing about Maine is that there are only a few teams that won’t make the playoffs. You have a second chance.
Portland opened against Kennebunk in 2021 and earned an impressive 30-18 win. From there, Portland went 10-0 before losing to Marshwood in the regional final.
“We went out there and played fast, played physically on both sides of the ball, and it was definitely a good tone,” Portland coach Jason McLeod recalled.
McLeod warned that while Game 1 will give coaches insight into their own team, the results “won’t tell us much” about the league as a whole.
“It’s not a good indication of how the whole season is going to go,” McLeod said. “The Marshwood you see in Week 1 probably won’t be Marshwood Week 10. The same can be said for a lot of teams, including us.”
NEW DEERING COACH Leon Smith and his 42-man roster kicked off their season Thursday night against Massabesic with a Class B South game in Waterboro. Smith, 60, is a former assistant coach at Westbrook (five seasons), Falmouth (10 seasons) and the past two seasons at Deering, where he was the defensive coordinator.
Smith, hired in June, is Deering’s seventh head coach since 2012. This is his first head coaching role. Smith replaces John Hardy, a former Deering and University of Maine player who was hired in March 2020. Deering was 0-8 in 2021.
Smith said he has emphasized discipline and accountability and will continue to do so.
“You miss two days of practice and you’re a starter, you’re not playing,” Smith said. “These kids understand that. I got my period this summer and I’m going to stick to it.
“So far everything has gone well and the children have been coming all summer. Dedicated. And when you get that dedication, you’re going to be successful,” Smith said.
A native of Richmond, Va., Smith played linebacker for Norfolk State from 1981 to 1984, earning all-conference honors as a junior and senior.
High school football preview: Midcoast teams hit the ground running