Boston High School: Eric Christensen

New England Roundup: Maine

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
6:20
PM ET
Nick Janes remembers how it used to feel to be a Marshwood football player, and he remembers when that changed.

MaineAt one time, the Hawks had one of the best football programs in the state. But Marshwood hadn’t been to a state title game since 1989, and finished 2-6 and out of the playoffs in 2011.

“You felt secluded,” said Janes, a senior running back and defensive back on this year’s Marshwood team. “Like, everybody knew you were, but no one really cared.”

Marshwood hired coach Alex Rotsko before this season. In addition to coaching at American International College and Ithaca, Rotsko had won 11 Super Bowls in 19 years as coach of Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts.

“The first practice, you looked at him, he just looked confident,” Janes said. “You didn’t want to lose for him.”

For Janes, the moment he realized things were different came in a preseason scrimmage against Portsmouth (N.H.) High. Marshwood struggled to move the ball, and Rotsko told his players what was wrong and how to fix it.

“The next play, we ran for like a 20-yard gain,” Janes said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Marshwood eventually made it to the Class B state championship game, losing 44-42 to Mt. Blue. It was clear Marshwood is back.

“You could feel the whole community coming around you,” Janes said.

Rotsko, who was also athletic director at Longmeadow, was friends with former Marshwood coach John Caverly, so he was aware when the Marshwood job became open.

“My wife and I own a home at York Beach, and we were coming up here anyway after I retired,” Rotsko said.

As usual, Rotsko installed the Wing-T offense, a run-based system built of multiple weapons.

“We ran it at Longmeadow,” he said. “The 19 years that I was there, we ran it 18 years and had 18 winning seasons. You can guess what happened that one year.”

“We used to run the spread offense,” said Dan Lizotte, a senior fullback/linebacker. “I thought we had the size to run a tighter offense. We just powered it up the middle. I liked it.”

With his favorite offense in place, Rotsko said there were two clear differences for him between Maine and Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, you have to play three games in 12 days at playoff time, including the annual Thanksgiving rivalry, while Maine simply has a game each week. The other notable difference is the size of the rosters.

“The school that I came from was not a real big school,” Rotsko said. “We probably had 500 boys, and 100 played football. I was used to dealing with 105, 110 kids. I came here, we had about 60 kids at the first practice. Out of those 60, 40 or so were freshmen and sophomores.”

Marshwood’s first two games in the regular season were against York and Mountain Valley. York was returning 18 starters from a playoff team, and Mountain Valley is a perennial powerhouse. Rotsko said he was told those were the two teams that Marshwood had no chance to beat, but the Hawks won both games, defeating York 28-12 and Mountain Valley, 19-12.

“It was unbelievable,” Janes said. “Everybody was really excited. It felt surreal.”

Less than a month after its second win, Marshwood lost a former teammate. Troy Pappas, the quarterback in 2011 and a freshman at Bates College, died Oct. 5, six days after falling down a stairwell.

“I’ve thought of him every day,” Janes said. “It’s tough to go through something like that, so he’s always on my mind. Playing with him for three years, you get used to him being there.”

The Hawks took the field just a couple hours after Pappas’ death, and defeated Cape Elizabeth, 20-0, to run their record to 5-1. They did not lose again in the regular season, and after beating Cape Elizabeth again in the quarterfinals, knocked off Wells, 15-13, and York, 21-20 to win the Western B title.

“I feel like Troy was there watching over us, making sure we won by the skin of our teeth,” Lizotte said. “Everyone felt that was it.”

A lot of key players are back for Marshwood next season, like quarterback Cameron Roll, running back Brett Gerry, and linemen Tyler Gagnon and Beau Blanchette.

“I thought it was a great season,” Rotsko said. “It couldn’t have gone any better. I think everybody’s already excited for next year.”

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New England Roundup: Maine

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
1:43
PM ET
The high school football season in Maine started Aug. 31. Here’s a look at how each class shapes up this fall:

MaineClass A
In the East, Lawrence won the Pine Tree Conference Class A last season and has posted two convincing victories this fall, including a 42-12 win over a Bangor team that is usually one of the best in the PTC A. While the Bulldogs probably won’t have a 1,000-yard rusher, they have six good backs, led by Anthony Sementelli and Josh Doolan. Bangor transfer Xavier Lewis adds more depth to the offense. Against his old teammates, Lewis had three touches and scored two touchdowns.

In contrast, Brunswick will rely almost completely on running back Jared Jensen. After rushing for 129 yards all of last season, Jensen ran for 428 yards on opening night and 283 the next week, giving him 711 yards in two games.

Messalonskee will look to its lines to challenge for the top spot in the PTC A. The Eagles run the double-wing on offense, with back Corey McKenzie getting most of the carries, and have one of the best rushing defenses in the conference.

Cheverus and Thornton are the two best teams in what should be a deep Western A. Cheverus has won 26 straight games and two consecutive state titles. The Stags returned 10 starters this year, including fullback Donald Goodrich, who scored five touchdowns in last year’s state championship game.

“I think we’re as good as we were last year,” Goodrich told the Portland Press Herald. “We did lose some big players but the other guys have done a nice job replacing them.”

Thornton plays Cheverus on Oct. 13, and that’s already shaping up as the game of the year. The Golden Trojans return the entire backfield from a team that won nine games last year. Foremost among those backs is junior Andrew Libby, who scored 16 touchdowns last season and is a threat to go the distance anytime he returns a punt. Quarterback Eric Christensen is another key player in an offense that has big-play potential. If the offense can’t get the job done, kicker Brandon Briggs (14 touchbacks last fall) has a strong leg.

Windham could be a dark horse candidate. The Eagles are led by twins Joe and Shawn Francoeur on the lines, and quarterback Damien Shepard is a threat running or passing. Unlike many teams in the West, Windham wants to beat you with strength instead of speed.

Class B
Leavitt defeated Mt. Blue 22-21 in double overtime in last year’s PTC B final, and these could be the two best teams in the league again this fall. Leavitt has a pair of 300-pound tackles, and an offense led by Brian Bedard and Josh Faunce. The Hornets have won 35 consecutive games in the regular season.

Mt. Blue lost most of its starters at skill positions but brings back quarterback Jordan Whitney, who threw 25 touchdown passes last fall. This season, Whitney has completed 22 of 29 passes for 416 yards.

Hampden will look to challenge those teams behind running back Logan Steward and quarterback Matt Martin. Gardiner has a do-everything quarterback/kicker in Dennis Meehan, but line play will be the true test for the Tigers. Waterville began the season with two strong victories, but the Purple Panthers will have to prove that they can beat the top teams before they can be seen as a contender. They’ll get that chance this week against Gardiner and Sept. 29 against Leavitt.

The West looks to be up for grabs. Westbrook was 5-5 last fall, but began this year by drilling perennial power Mountain Valley, 30-0, then knocking off defending state champion Wells, 28-20. Senior running backs Ben Grant and Cale Bollig do most of the work on the ground, and Collin Joyce is a factor running or receiving. Wells graduated all but three starters, but Dante Fanning and Drew Shelley are the big backs in a powerful offense.

Greely opened the season with two lopsided victories. The Rangers run the triple option on offense, and quarterback Drew Hodge is also a dangerous passer. Marshwood, coming off a 2-6 season, has already matched that win total and could be a sleeper team. Mountain Valley, despite starting the season 0-2, could pose problems by the end of the season.

Class C
The Little Ten Conference is not the place to go if you want to see close games. Five teams started off the season 2-0, and all 10 of those wins were by at least 20 points.

The four big contenders are Bucksport, Foxcroft, John Bapst, and Orono. Bucksport has a powerful offense, with quarterback Matt Stewart and running back Nic Bishop the top weapons. Foxcroft returns running back Don Boyer and Ryan Rebar (8 TDs receiving and 8 INTs as a cornerback last fall).

John Bapst has impressive speed at the skill positions, but must replace the graduation of quarterback Deven Romain and his top two receivers. Orono has a great backfield tandem of Christian Mowrer (15.9 yards per carry this season) and Norton Revell (15.5 yards per catch).

The big story in the West was Oak Hill’s 33-7 victory over Yarmouth, which had won 24 consecutive games. That win cemented the Raiders, who were 3-6 in 2011, as a true contender in the Campbell Conference. Oak Hill has good size in the line for top running backs Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty, both of whom are sophomores.

Yarmouth will still contend behind quarterback Brady Neujahr and a running game paced by Matt Klepinger and Thomas Lord. So will Maranacook, with quarterback Caleb Castonguay, a running and passing threat. Traip has only about 20 players on its roster, but two of them are stud running backs in Corey Aldecoa and Devon Draker. Dirigo and Winslow could also make a run.

Maine Statewide Top 10
1. Cheverus - Stags have outscored opponents 85-6 in two games.
2. Thornton - Golden Trojans coming off 67-7 pasting of Gorham, face No. 9 Bonny Eagle next.
3. Windham - QB Damien Shepard has four touchdowns running, two more passing.
4. Lawrence - Bulldogs have outscored opposition 65-0 in first halves of games this fall.
5. Scarborough - Red Storm, 3-6 last fall, stunned Bonny Eagle 35-18 last week.
6. Portland - Bulldogs didn’t get inside Cheverus 30 in 42-0 loss, but looked great against Massabesic.
7. Mt. Blue - Cougars beat Madison/Carrabec 41-28, but led 41-0 at half before pulling starters.
8. Leavitt - Hornets keep rolling with 36-0 blanking of Belfast.
9. Bonny Eagle - QB Tyson Goodale has ran or thrown for all nine of team’s touchdowns this fall.
10. Westbrook - Blue Blazes overpowered Mtn. Valley, then beat defending state champ Wells, 28-20.

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