The Brewer football team will begin a new chapter this fall, as it plays its first season in Class C of the Maine Principals’ Association.
After going 4-12 over the past two seasons, and graduating 14 seniors last year, the Witches made the switch from Class B during the offseason to help catalyze a period of growth.
The Witches aren’t just changing their class, though. With a new set of rivals on its schedule, and several new faces in the locker room, Brewer is taking the opportunity to establish a new identity for itself.
“We looked back at several games last year, and we had to execute better in the red zone,” head coach Scott Flagg said. “We’ve been emphasizing a mentality that we’re going to finish the job, with every drill we do in practice. Finishing.”
Flagg and his coaching staff have paired this philosophy with an increased attention to conditioning this summer. Many of the Witches’ preseason activities involved preparation for a team-wide running test on the first day of practice Monday, which everyone passed.
“Last year, most of our red-zone attempts came after a long drive, or in the second half. It seemed like we could never finish the drive because we were tired,” junior quarterback Ethan Leavitt said. “We’re trying to condition a lot harder this year.”
The Witches plan on running a more dynamic offense this season, incorporating more pass plays than in previous years. Former all-conference running back Cameron Hughes graduated last year, so Brewer will look to a handful of rookie athletic receivers to make big plays. In contrast to most of Maine, Brewer’s football program grew in number this offseason, with the Witches recruiting some of the school’s state champion basketball players to expand the roster.
MORE ON BREWER FOOTBALL
“There are lots of kids from other sports we got to play football this year. So we have new kids across all four classes,” senior running back Hunter Merrithew said. “It’s a big team, but we’ve come together. We’re all working our butts off, playing the game we love as a giant family.”
The Witches’ motto reflects these sentiments: “Brewer, Family, Basso.”
“Basso” refers to the loss earlier this year of starting defensive back Bryce Basso, who fatally fell while hiking at Acadia National Park. His jersey will be carried out to every coin toss this season. The loss has brought the team together.
“We have a large group of kids that are working really hard toward a common goal, giving it everything they can to honor their teammate and making the most out of our time together,” Flagg said. “It’s a uniquely unified group.”
The Witches’ season begins with three highly anticipated games: an exhibition match on Aug. 26, in Salem, Massachusetts; a home opener against Hermon on Sept. 1; and a battle with Hampden Academy away on Sept. 8.
In Salem, Brewer will play the only other high school team in the U.S. named the “Witches.” Coincidentally, both Brewer and Salem have been coached by Maine Sports Hall of Famer Ken Perrone. Perrone led each program to multiple state championships from 1967 to 1994.
The exhibition match has been in the making for several months and will mark the first time Brewer has ever left the state for a football game.
“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to get more comfortable against larger teams and play a team we don’t know,” senior offensive and defensive tackle Colby Largay said.
With its exhibition game already planned, Brewer was unable to schedule Bangor this year, since they are now two classes apart in the MPA.
“We are really excited about the Salem game, but a lot of people will be disappointed we aren’t playing Bangor; I was disappointed,” Flagg said.
Rounding out the regular season action for Brewer will be home games versus Medomak Valley, Messalonskee and Nokomis, and away games against Oceanside, Winslow and Lawrence. Medomak Valley was the Class C North Regional champion last year.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of running back Hunter Merrithew. It has been corrected.