Friday night lights have begun to glare for the Belfast Area High School football squad this fall as the Lions are eager to get back on the gridiron. Second-year coach Chris Bartlett said this year’s team has tight bonds and the eagerness to get back on the field to show what it can do.

“I like the chemistry they have from seniors down to the freshmen,” Bartlett said. “Everybody feels and acts like they are a welcome part of the team, which is good. We are young in key spots and we just have to mature and make sure we get better.”

The Lions lost to visiting Mount Desert Island 20-6 in their home- and season-opening game Sept. 6. The contest was moved from the night of Sept. 3 due to Hurricane Earl.

The Lions include seniors Lani Eversage (6-foot 3-inch, 185-pound split end, defensive back), Jordan Young (5-7, 130, split end, defensive back), Jeff Flagg (5-8, 150, halfback, linebacker), Brad Reed (5-9, 145, quarterback, defensive back), Dylan Webster (5-10, 200, halfback, linebacker), Justin Philbrook (5-9, 175, fullback, defensive end), Ben Knowlton (5-8, 160, halfback, defensive back), Forrest Boynton (6-2, 175, end, linebacker), Tyson Marr (5-9, 210, offensive line, defensive end), Luke Simmons (5-8, 150, center, defensive end), Kornelius Wood (5-8, 190, guard, defensive end), Ben Rabe (5-9, 175, guard, defensive end) and Craig Herbert (5-10, 175, 5-10, 175, center, defensive end).

The juniors are Jake Campbell (6-0, 175, halfback, defensive back), Dakota Sanford (5-1, 115, halfback, defensive back), Steve Cook (5-9, 170, fullback, defensive back), Dylan Bernosky (5-8, 160, guard, linebacker), Nahsic Oliphant (5-6, 190, guard, linebacker) and Adam Heroux (6-1, 220, offensive line, linebacker); and sophomores Caleb Cook (5-7, 150, quarterback, defensive back), Brent Waterman (5-6, 140, quarterback, defensive back), Albert Ray (5-10, 170, end, defensive end), Trevor Cannell (5-7, 150, halfback, linebacker), Albert Ray (5-10, 170, end, defensive end), Brandon Armstrong (5-9, 140, split end, defensive back), Carl Dodge (5-6, 150, halfback, defensive back), Chance Barnes (5-6, 130, halfback, defensive back), Derek Philbrook (5-6, 135, halfback, defensive back), Casey Flagg (5-9, 215, offensive line, defensive end), Stephen Paul (5-10, 260, offensive line, nose tackle), Peter Kelley (5-10, 185, offensive line, linebacker), Wyatt Roberts (5-10, 190), William Coward (5-9, 260, offensive line, nose), Robert Leblanc (5-8, 185, offensive line, defensive end), Joe Durgin-Carter (6-1, 230, tackle, defensive tackle) and Chris Cunningham (5-8, 175, offensive line, linebacker).

The freshmen are Mike McFadden (5-5, 135, split end, defensive back), Alec Young (5-4, 110, fullback, defensive back), Zach Collier (6-0, 150, quarterback, defensive back), Brandon Ray (5-10, 135, split end, defensive end), Tyler Tran (5-4, 125, halfback, defensive back), Anthony Salisbury (5-7, 135, halfback, defensive end), Devin Richards (5-8, 140, halfback, defensive back), Damien Ball (5-4, 130, halfback, defensive back), Greg Clark (5-8, 150, fullback, linebacker), Baxter Smith (5-5, 140, split end, linebacker), Walker Roberts (5-3, 110, halfback, defensive back), Tristan Cook Sweetland (5-8, 115, fullback, defensive back), Jacob Booth (5-7, 140, split end, defensive back), Will Mossing (5-4, 180, center, defensive line), Noah Klewin (5-7, 175, guard, linebacker), Sean Seacotte (information unavailable), Blaed Peaslee (5-8, 155, guard, defensive tackle), Michael Thompson (5-8, 190, tackle, nose guard), Korey Doolan (5-9, 170, split end, defensive end) and Tommy Torrey (5-8, 260, tackle, defensive tackle).

Last year’s seniors, who graduated, were Derrick Bernosky (quarterback, defensive back), Josh Beal (end, defensive back), Matt Sanderson (fullback, linebacker), Willie Fogg (halfback, linebacker), Matt Steinort (offensive line, linebacker), Justin Boyle (offensive line, nose tackle), Dylan Hahn (offensive lineman, defensive end), Mo Martin (offensive line, nose tackle), Tim Parker (offensive lineman, defensive end) and Nick Thibodeau (end, defensive end).

The key to success this fall is strengthening the offensive line, Bartlett said, but, the season “looks promising.”

“We still have some big holes to fill,” he said. “We have some questions that we still need answered. The whole key is going to be how the offensive line gels and how they come together. That’s the thing with every team: the offensive line, that’s where it starts.”

The team has younger, inexperienced players, but coach Bartlett hopes they will learn along the way and help the squad grab wins.

“As experience comes, hopefully we want to be able to win some ballgames while these guys are getting experience to put us in a good spot at the end of the year,” Bartlett said.

The coach wants the team to improve daily, “that’s something that we live by. Once you make and achieve a certain step or a certain level you don’t want to let yourself drop below that level.”

The team’s strength is its speed. Coach Bartlett thinks the team is quicker than it was last year on both sides of the ball and hopes to capitalize on that. “We do a nice job on flying to the ball and gang tackling. We close the gap pretty quickly,” he said.

Looking at the team, Bartlett said he couldn’t pick a couple of leaders, instead he said the seniors, who he has coached since freshman year, lead the Lion pride.

“Right now, there really isn’t one individual that stands out. They all have a very important role in the success of the team. So all those seniors are doing a nice job of kind of grabbing the team and saying ‘Listen, this is our last go-around and we are going to make it a special one.’ “

Those seniors are not looking at a breezy finale either. “The league isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination,” Bartlett said. “They just need to make sure that we are playing intense football: taking care of the Xs and Os.”

However, the coach has a positive feeling about the season and wants to take victories one step at a time. “We want to get better every day,” he said. “We want to improve on last year and see if we can get a couple more wins and try to finish up there in the middle of the pack and see if we can surprise somebody along the way.”

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.