Jaxon Gross transferred from Bucksport High to Brewer High to play class B football his senior year. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Jaxon Gross wants to play Division I football just like his brother David, the starting offensive guard for the University of Maine’s football team.

And the Orland native’s decision to transfer from Bucksport High School to Brewer High this season for academics his senior year might help him realize his dream.

“There are way more opportunities at Brewer,” explained Gross, who is taking classes that offer college credits.

Bucksport is transitioning to eight-player football for the first time this season. Bucksport was also previously a Class D football school, while Brewer is in Class B.

“I wanted to play at a higher level,” he added.

The addition of the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Gross — who won the state 220-pound Class B state wrestling title last winter — has the Brewer Witches poised for improvement this year after finishing 1-8 last season. Gross is a linebacker and a running back/blocking back who will line up in different slots in the offensive backfield.

Since Gross lives in Orland and Orland doesn’t have a high school, he had his choice of schools. So he drives 30 minutes one way to Brewer.

“He is a terrific player,” said Brewer head coach Scott Flagg. “He leads in terms of his work ethic and the way he conducts himself. I am psyched we have him here.”

Gross said the adjustment hasn’t been difficult and he is excited about the season.

“He has been a great addition,” said Brewer senior running back and linebacker Cameron Hughes. “He is super physical. He has a great mentality. He just wants to hit people.”

Gross has high expectations for the team even though the Witches are coming off a season in which their average losing margin was 25.1 points per game.

“The team is looking really good. A lot of people doubt us but it’s going to be a bounceback year for us,” said Gross, who will make his Brewer debut on Friday night at Cameron Stadium in Bangor.

Flagg said he is encouraged by what he has seen from his team.

“We have a good returning group. We have 15 seniors, many of whom saw a lot of playing time last year,” Flagg said. “We have taken the offense we ran at the end of last season to the next level. Things are going pretty well.”

Hughes headlines the offense. He was an all-conference running back a year ago and will get a lot of carries this season.

Ryder Goodwin is the returning quarterback and Flagg said he expects him to run a little more this season. The Witches will throw out of play-action or RPO (run pass option).

Gross will also get some carries but will be an important blocker in the run game.

The primary receivers will be senior veterans Evan Nadeau and Jason Melanson. Senior tight end Aiden Davis is another option. Davis is a four-year starter.

Juniors Colby Largay and Mason Philbrick will be the offensive tackles, seniors Titus Philbrick and Hunter MacDonald will be the guards and junior Josh Bradley will be the center.

MacDonald was a fullback last season “but we need him on the line,” said Flagg.

On defense, the line will be comprised of Davis and Titus Philbrick at the ends with Largay and Bradley inside. Gross, Hughes and senior Brock Flagg, Scott’s son, will be the linebackers and the secondary will be comprised of cornerbacks Jake Perry, a sophomore, and Nadeau, along with safeties Ethan Leavitt and Melanson.

Leavitt is a sophomore.

Goodwin is the punter and Titus Philbrick is the placekicker.

Senior linebacker Rowan Valley is the team’s top returning tackler but is nursing a knee injury. He won’t play on Friday but Flagg is hoping to get him back this season.

Flagg feels his team is a playoff team but said “we are taking it one week at a time.”