Scouting the Maine East Blue Demons
Small victories are the key to big victories.
That's the message second-year Maine East coach Bob Winkel is trying to impart on his players.
Maine East went 0-9 last season, and won two games in the previous three seasons before Winkel's arrival. So he believes a slow, steady build of focusing on the little things will eventually pay big dividends.
"We talk to our players about small victories that can lead to wins. Things like winning a drive or winning a quarter, or winning the turnover battle," Winkel said. "Our two big goals this year is to focus on being better with turnovers and penalties. We expect a focus on that to really help us."
Last year, the Blue Demons averaged more than 10 penalties per game, and about 3 turnovers per game, while managing only about 1 takeaway per game.
While lowering those numbers will be a huge key this season, Winkel and his staff have focused on increasing numbers on the roster.
By the end of last season, Maine East had just 21 players remaining on the varsity roster. Now, the varsity is up to around 40 players.
"We have some incredible kids on the team who really believe in what we're doing and they've developed into really good leaders and they've recruited kids around school to join us because they believe we are doing something special," Winkel said. "Kids around school are seeing what our players are doing in the weight room and how they're improving and they want to be a part of that. We've also made sure our kids are spending more time together, hanging out getting to know each other.
"We've completely revamped the program and the kids are trying to put 0-9 behind them. This is a completely different team."
Winkel says he is encouraging his players to be different.
"Our team saying is, 'Be uncommon,' " Winkel said. "We want our kids to be different from those before them."
Leading the charge for different results will be four players who started last year, three who went both ways.
Mark Ibrahim started last year on the offensive and defensive line and played some linebacker. Balti Cabrales will play safety and fullback and O'Neal Issac will play running back, wide receiver and safety.
Meanwhile, quarterback Ceasar Graham is also back. As a sophomore, he started the final two games of last season at quarterback.
"Ceasar is small at about 5-foot-6 or 5-7, but he has a very good arm and does a nice job of reading the defense," Winkel said. "He's got decent speed, too."
Maine East will run the ball the majority of the time and will lean on Issac, who went to the state track meet last spring in the 4x400 relay. Cabrales will also get plenty of touches out of the backfield.
Of their many new additions, the Blue Demons will rely on a handful of players who are completely new to football, such as Jadon Landeau, who was a 4x400 teammate of Issac and has speed that will come in handy at wide receiver and cornerback. He is in his first year of football.
"We are young and we have some new guys, but I think our team will be much more competitive in general," Winkel said. "Football hasn't been a main sport at Maine East, so it was a struggle getting the numbers out. But we're changing that."
Maine East opens the season against Winkel's high school alma mater, Marmion Academy. Several coaches who coached Winkel are still on the staff at Marmion, including head coach Dan Thorpe.