Fall Mountain

Alignment: Division IV

Last year: 3-4

Coach: Orion Binney (3rd season)

Captains: Fermen Gomez, Aaron Blair, Morgan Wilbur, Sean McAllister

First game: Tonight, 7 p.m., vs. Raymond

Outlook: Last year was a big step forward for the Wildcats, going from 1-7 in 2017 to 3-4 in their first season in Division IV. But the season ended in heartbreak, as the team came one game short of its first playoff berth in this millennium after losing the regular season finale to Newfound, 56-14.

It was a punch in the gut to the entire team, but Coach Orion Binney said the team has now turned that heartbreak into motivation for this season.

The Cats lost some key pieces on offense, including starting quarterback Jacob Shoemaker and one of their top receivers in Owen Marandino. In Fall Mountain’s pass-heavy, pro-style offense, those two were big playmakers throughout the season.

Binney said he expects junior Reggie DeCamp to take over at quarterback. The coach said DeCamp is talented but relatively inexperienced at the position, so the transition could include some growing pains.

Stepping up into Marandino’s role as the slot receiver is junior Tyler Swain. Swain isn’t as athletic as Marandino, according to Binney, but he’s a more physical receiver, and has made great strides this preseason. Also making big improvements, Binney said, is junior tight end Alex Flynn, who is expected to provide a nice safety valve for DeCamp.

The defense is in a more secure spot, returning nine of 11 starters, although it did lose Marandino and Justin Garneau on the corners. Senior Fermen Gomez returns to the middle linebacker spot to lead this unit.

Coach’s corner: “I think the talent’s there, I think we’re gonna be pretty talented, but what we need to do is be significantly more disciplined and be more focused during games … I think as long as we do those things, we should take that next step forward into the playoffs.”

Game to watch: Sept. 14, 1 p.m., at Winnisquam

The Wildcats narrowly lost to the eventual Division IV state champs last season at home, 20-12.

This year the game will be in Tilton, and Binney said it’ll be a good test of whether Fall Mountain is just gunning for a playoff spot, or if it’s aiming for something more.