At the dawn of a new high school football season, all teams have hope — some more than others, to be sure.
Here’s one thought of how the arriving campaign may evolve from the heat of late summer to the chill of mid-autumn in Eastern Maine.
Pine Tree Conference Class A: Defending champion Lawrence of Fairfield and Bangor have combined to win five of the last six regional titles, and there’s little reason to think these teams won’t meet in the conference final this fall.
Lawrence, which has one regular-season loss in the last six years, is led by one of the region’s top all-around players in quarterback-safety Spencer Carey, one of 21 seniors on coach John Hersom’s roster.
Bangor’s front line is not quite as big as its recent additions, but Rams’ coach Mark Hackett hopes to counter with speed, athleticism and aggression up front to free up a talented stable of backs and receivers that includes 1,000-yard rusher Cody Chapman and fellow senior Zeb Tuell.
Brunswick and Messalonskee have been among the teams living most prominently in the shadows of Lawrence and Bangor in recent years — with Brunswick twice ousting Lawrence in the playoffs and Messalonskee defeating Bangor for the first time during the 2011 regular season. Both figure to be in the playoff hunt again this fall.
If there’s a sleeper in the division, it might be Cony of Augusta, which boasts a third-year starting quarterback in Ben Lucas, a top-flight receiver in Chandler Shostak and a quality halfback in Brandon St. Michel. The Rams’ success may be determined how well they play defensively.
The pick: Lawrence.
PTC Class B: The conversation has to begin with Leavitt of Turner Center, the three-time defending conference champion that carries a 33-game PTC winning streak into the new season.
But Leavitt’s championship margin was ever so slight last fall, with a successful two-point conversion in double overtime slipping the Hornets past Mt. Blue of Farmington in the title game.
Gone from Leavitt’s roster is Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Jordan Hersom, but the Hornets are huge up front, have experienced receivers and speed at both quarterback and tailback, and until someone knocks them off they must be considered the favorite.
Mt. Blue and Hampden Academy figure to make it a three-team race. Mt. Blue has one of the region’s top quarterbacks in senior Jordan Whitney, while Hampden returns the majority of its roster from a year ago, led by senior halfback Logan Steward.
The pick: Leavitt.
LTC Class C: Last year’s four semifinalists are expected to be this year’s four semifinalists, with defending champion Bucksport, Foxcroft Academy and John Bapst of Bangor having accounted for 10 of the last 11 conference titles while Orono broke through in 2011 for its first trip to the final since 1996.
Coach Bob Sinclair’s Orono club is poised to take the next step, its Oklahoma T offensive formation featuring twin brothers Christian and Cameron Mowrer and its play up front led by veterans Jack Lucy and Zac Landean.
Foxcroft may be the Red Riots’ primary challenger, bolstered by its own wealth of two-way playmakers including senior wide receiver-defensive back Ryan Rebar, who had five interceptions in a game last fall.
John Bapst has considerable outside speed on both offense and defense, while Bucksport has a defensive standout in linebacker Nic Bishop and enough other talented athletes back to help overcome significant graduation losses.
The pick: Foxcroft Academy.