As the winter sports season begins, some central Maine athletes adjust to a quick transition

FAIRFIELD — After a fall season of catching and hitting hard, Gavin Lunt was given a break — not that he wanted anything of the sort.

On Saturday, Lunt was passing and kicking in the Class B football championship as a receiver and returner for Lawrence. On Monday, he wore a completely different outfit when the Lawrence boys basketball team played its first game.

“(The school) gave us a week off if we needed it, but we’re not going to let a little pain stop us from playing basketball,” Lunt said. “We have a tournament this week that we want to be a part of, so getting out here and getting ready for the season is something we want to do.”

Monday marked the first day many winter sports teams could practice.

Many athletes find themselves in the same position as the first week of the new season begins across the country. The preseason and preseason games are almost over, forcing some athletes whose minds were focused on different sports the week before to quickly turn the page.

Football is a physical game, and you won’t find many teams that are better this year than Lawrence. In a thrilling Pine Tree meet, the Bulldogs were the unicorns, using their physicality up front to tear their way to the Class B North championship.

While this type of football is tried and true, it is also taxing. With players accounting for 14 of the 18 kids who participated in Monday’s first basketball game, head coach Jason Pellerin is focusing on how the players’ bodies and minds are doing.

“We gave it to the kids, ‘you know, if you want to rest, rest,’ and we chose,” Pellerin said. If they don’t want to, but we feel they might need a mental break, maybe we can say, ‘Hey, just take a break for a day or so; we know you want to be here, but we want you here too, mind and body.’”

Monmouth Academy boys basketball coach Wade Morrill, center, gives instructions during Monday’s boys basketball game in Foster Gym in Monmouth. Dave Dyer / Kennebec Journal

With the exception of one player who went home sick earlier, the Lawrence basketball players all opted to participate on the first day of practice. Michael Hamlin said the desire to bounce back from a 40-20 loss to Kennebunk in Saturday’s football game played into his decision.

“I feel like the loss of the government can help us; “We’re still hungry to win, and we can do that in another game to help clear our minds,” said Hamlin, Lawrence’s quarterback. “(Basketball) is physical, but it’s a different kind of physical. The first few weeks might be tough with a lot of mistakes, but I think we’ll be ready.”

It’s not just the players who have to adapt quickly; those who coach fall and winter sports should do so, too. Pellerin is the defensive coordinator of the football team, which means that he, too, was thinking about football and not basketball as recently as 48 hours before Monday.

Returning to basketball means a change in roles for Pellerin. As a defensive coordinator, he was tasked this fall with drawing up schemes and blitz packages, but as a basketball head coach, he now has more responsibility for the various sports.

“Sometimes, I wake up at 2:30 or 4 in the morning, and I find a different set, an outdoor play or a drill that fits what I want to do,” Pellerin said. “Actually, basketball is on my mind, but during football, my job was to be a part of the Lawrence football team.”

Lawrence head boys basketball coach Jason Pellerin, who is also the Bulldogs’ assistant football coach, shares a laugh with his team during practice just days after Monday’s Class B state championship game in Fairfield. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

About 37 miles from Fairfield, the Monmouth Academy boys basketball team hit the floor in Foster Gym for the first practice of the season. Several basketball players also competed on the football team that defeated Easton 5-3 on Nov. 11 to win the Class D title at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Nine days later, the Mustangs were driving under the watchful eye of head coach Wade Morrill.

“It feels good to be back (in basketball), just to be back with all the guys,” Monmouth senior Sam Calder said.

“It’s really exciting (to start the winter season),” senior Kyle Palleschi added. “It’s a quick change. We are still strong (from football), we have not lost anything. We haven’t lost a step (game-wise), so that’s good. And it’s basketball season. “

While the rest of the team used the nine days to rest, senior Lucas Harmon used the time to hit the weight room.

“(The turnaround) isn’t bad, we’re happy,” Harmon said. “We just won, so it’s good in this regard. If we lost, it would look different.

“I tried to eat more (during the week), gain more weight before playing basketball. I knew I would lose (weight during football), I just put on weight.”

Members of the Monmouth Academy boys basketball team practice in Foster Gym on Monday in Monmouth. Dave Dyer / Kennebec Journal

While the transition may be easy, Monmouth players are also mindful of what basketball season can bring.

“For me, the main thing is recovery; I consider recovery very important,” said Palleschi. “I have two massage guns and rollers (at home). It’s a big thing for me, so it definitely works. But as long as your body is comfortable and flexible, continue to take good care of it (not) eat junk food and sit around, do nothing and let it mature.

Madison junior Raegan Cowan is coming off a historic season, scoring 58 goals to lead the Bulldogs to eight girls state titles, a 3-1 win over Penquis Valley on Nov. 11 at Cony High School in Augusta. On Monday, Cowan had to put aside his thoughts on the Ballon d’Or to focus on the hard work.

“Honestly, I didn’t realize I was going to be playing basketball until (Monday),” Cowan laughed. “I still think a lot about football and our district championship. I just wish I could (experience it) every day. “

Cowan and his teammates quickly got to work on the basketball season.

“A couple of my friends and I went to the gym, we started right after (football) season,” Cowan said. “We fired and started to improve. There is really no rest for us. … It is difficult to distinguish (training) between the two sports. From football to basketball it is completely different. Different attitudes, different everything. But we are just trying to have the right attitude and focus on basketball at the time this.”

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