Dexter quarterback Bryce Connor (left) scrambles with the ball as Houlton's Isaiah Ervin gives chase during a game Sept. 16. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Hermon’s defensive changes

Hermon head football coach Kyle Gallant thought about making some changes to his defensive line before the Cheverus game on Sept. 24, but decided to let the team go one more time in the same personnel.

While Gallant says the game was closer than the 20-0 loss to the Stags appears, the result was enough for him to huddle the team together after its “Monday Funday” practice in the Hermon gym.

Gallant asked his players what they thought about moving Jaykob Dow, the team’s 6-foot-7, 270-pound star, from defensive end to defensive tackle and switching Gary Glidden from linebacker to defensive end.

The team unanimously approved, and after a full week of practice with the alignment the Hawks stampeded Hampden 59-12 on Friday night.

“We had been toying with making defensive changes all year,” Gallant said. “It was a decision I wanted to let the kids in on, as well. … The kids were behind it, but I wanted to give it one more week, and then we went to Cheverus, and it was very apparent that we needed to change.”

In this September 2021 file photo, Hermon High School football coach Kyle Gallant (center) talks to his team. (Credit Ernie Clark / BDN)

Hermon allowed its season-low in points with the new defensive alignment. Before the move, teams were running plays away from all-conference linemen Kayden Patten and Hunter Kenna. Now, teams don’t have a weaker side to attack.

“Jaykob said he felt way more comfortable at defensive tackle and then Glidden said he was more comfortable at defensive end,” Gallant said. “Then on Friday we did stuff we never have. We are a strong offensive team and year to year the defense is OK but we looked really good on defense for the first time in years.”

The decision to leave the changes up to the team is part of the strong culture that Hermon has cultivated over the years, but the closeness of this year’s team is especially unique.

“We’re so close. The culture we’ve built, myself, the coaches, the parents, the village, the culture we’ve built is a coach’s dream,” Gallant added. “These kids will give up four hours of their Sundays to coach the youth football teams. They’re giving back and as a coach it starts at the top. I believe it all starts there and so I felt like I owed it to them to let them in on the decision.”

Foxcroft bounces back

Foxcroft senior Caden Crocker races for a 44-yard touchdown in a Sept. 16 game against Old Town. (Credit: Stuart Hedstrom / Piscataquis Observer)

In Foxcroft Academy’s 14-13 loss to Lisbon on Sept. 23, the Ponies lost their do-it-all star player Caden Crocker in the second quarter to an injury.

Lisbon also held the ball for 38 minutes and forced Foxcroft into three turnovers.

It was a low point for the Ponies, who are the defending Class D champions, and they hoped to bounce back against John Bapst this past Friday.

Crocker came back and scored three touchdowns, made an interception and had a big punt return early in the game to get the offense into good field position.

“He was phenomenal Friday night,” Foxcroft coach Dan White said of Crocker. “He left the Lisbon game in the second quarter so we lost him. Having him back certainly helped. He was massive… He’s always going to be one of the best players on the field but he played with a little more Friday night.”

White said the team entered the John Bapst matchup with a “chip on their shoulder,” and after a good week of practice wanted to bounce back in a big way.

This season Foxcroft returned four of its five offensive linemen from their title-winning team a year ago and the unit played well on Friday night, according to White.         

Foxcroft now is preparing for Hampden Academy at home before two road games against Maine Central Institute and Freeport before finishing the regular season at home against Oak Hill.

Dexter stays undefeated behind quarterback play

Dexter quarterback Bryce Connor is one of many returning players from last year’s eight-player, small-school championship-winning team, and his leadership helped the Tigers to a close win over Orono on Friday.

The Tigers scored twice in the first quarter and then didn’t score again until the fourth, but the team never quit.

“The leadership really makes a difference,” Dexter coach Andrew Levensalor said. “We went up two scores then didn’t score again until the fourth. The mindset they have when they’re down is special. We preach body language, good or bad, and move onto the next play. These kids, they never quit. The leadership from my quarterback is awesome.”

Connor threw for two scores on Friday and ran for one more. On the season he has 14 touchdowns.

“We run the double tight end sometimes, and he’s happy to run that. He can run outside, and if we want to spread it out he can throw it, too,” Levensalor said. “There have been a couple games where he’s run over 200 yards and a couple where he’s gone over 300 throwing yards. He has 1,400 yards of offense just by himself.”

Levensalor said the team has replaced what it lost from the championship team last season, despite being a different team.

“I think we’re right there with them at least,” he said, comparing the two teams. “Of course having (Connor) back in makes a huge difference. I was talking with a coach that you can tell they’ve seen it all before. They don’t get frazzled.”

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.