By Mike Zhe
September 18. 2014 11:17PM
Tunnel vision: Hawks handling expectations, opponents
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Nobody wins a gold ball in September, no matter how impressive the results.
The preseason murmurs named the Marshwood High School football team as the potential favorite in Western Maine Class B. The two games it’s played — beating Greely and Oceanside by a combined 107-0 — have certainly added some volume.
The Hawks (2-0) are one of three unbeaten teams in the division heading into Friday’s game at Westbrook (1-1). The other two – Falmouth and York – square off a few miles down Route 91.
The Marshwood players hear the talk. They hear that they’re in the pole position to win the program’s second regional title in three years. But they also know that it’s action – not talk – that will get them closer to that goal, one week at a time.
“We just take it as the other teams are going to try to hit us, so we’ll just hit them harder,” said senior lineman Nick Dalecki. “If we’re the target, no big deal.”
“There’s definitely a little bit more pressure on us,” said senior fullback/linebacker Jackson Howarth. “Everyone’s going to be looking to beat us. We’ve just got to keep our heads up and give it our all.”
Third-year coach Alex Rotsko isn’t buying the hype yet, not with such a small sample size. But he does feel the team is closer to where it wants to be in Week 3 than it was in his first two years, when it went 10-2 and then 8-3.
“The biggest difference, on both sides of the ball, is they’re speaking our language now,” said Rotsko. “They recognize it. When they come off the field, instead of us having to explain things to the kids, they know the answer.”
With six starters back on offense and seven back on defense, including two-way standout Brett Gerry, and good depth, the Hawks entered the season in an enviable position. They’re got two quarterbacks — Luc Blanchette and Kyle Parmley — capable of running the Wing-T attack and a defense that could be the hardest-hitting in the state.
Playing Westbrook, a team that reached the regional semifinals last year, is a step up in competition after two one-sided routs. But the Hawks feel they’ve made progress these last two weeks, even if the games were laughers and settled by halftime.
“Without a doubt,” said Dalecki. “Every week we get better, every single week. We have a very good ‘look’ team that gives us a scout on the next (opponent). That makes us better.”
In last year’s game against Westbrook, a 33-0 win here, the Hawks were dominant defensively, allowing just 104 total yards and a collective four turnovers.
“We definitely can’t take them lightly,” said Howarth. “We’ve got to play them like they’re the best team in the state. That’s what we try to do every game, whether they’re the best team or not the best.”
Following this game, the Hawks have two straight at home, where they’re 13-0 since Rotsko took over the program in 2012: against defending regional champion Kennebunk, which is 0-2 after graduating a lot from last year; and Messalonskee, a team that went 6-4 last season in Eastern Maine and won a playoff game before losing to eventual state champion Cony.
But the Hawks don’t plan to look too far ahead.
“I think, honestly, we’re pretty humble about it,” said Dalecki. “We’re going to hit each other as hard in practice as any other team would. That really keeps us down, when somebody’s across the ball, whether they’re wearing the same color or not, just hammering on us.”
In September, the color in focus is still purple. Not gold.
“Right now, I don’t think anybody has any clue,” said Rotsko. “Nobody knows, including ourselves, how good we are.”