Alignment: Division I West
Last year: 1-8
Coach: Linwood Patnode (1st season)
Captains: Travis Emery, Cole Masterson, Cal Sault, Clint Maleski
First game: Tonight, 7 p.m., at Dover
Outlook: Coach Linwood Patnode has experience building a successful football program.
As the head coach of Monadnock’s team from 2009-2016, he led the Huskies to their first state title and laid the groundwork for much of the playstyle and philosophy that current coach Ryan Avery now employs with the defending Division III state champs.
Now, Patnode is working to bring that same hard-nosed mentality to the Blackbirds, a team he coached as an assistant from 2006-08.
Patnode has been with his new team for only two months after his hiring in early July, and he said he’s been learning on the fly just as much as his players.
He said he’s working to implement a more run-heavy offense similar to the Huskies, but rather than playing out of the Wishbone, most of the plays will be run out of the “I” Formation so the players can stay mostly within the playbook they know.
Returning to the starting quarterback spot is junior Tucker Brown, an athletic specimen known for both his arm and legs. Patnode said that with Brown’s athleticism, he could play some snaps at wide receiver as well.
The primary force out of the backfield will be senior running back Cole Masterson, with sophomore Tanner Payne and junior Taylor Bemis rotating at fullback, according to Patnode.
Other key returning veterans include linemen Travis Emery (senior) and Lincoln Davis (junior), who could be instrumental for the more aggressive style of defense Patnode said he plans to employ. He added that the defense will adapt game-by-game, potentially playing out of either a 4-3 or 3-4 base.
Coach’s corner: “I think if there’s anything that I’m trying to implement to them right now, besides offensive formations and defensive stunts, it is physicality. That is the primary thing that I feel that this team was really in need of, was physicality. Hit, hit, hit and hit again.” — Linwood Patnode
Game to watch: Nov. 1, 6:30 p.m., vs. Spaulding
There are a few reasons to be excited about this year’s regular season finale, even if the Blackbirds aren’t in the playoff hunt.
First, the team and its new coach will have had almost a full season to work out the kinks in their new system, and this could be a glimpse into what they’ll look like in future seasons.
Second, in terms of last year’s record, Spaulding is the weakest team on Keene’s roster, having gone 1-8 last year, so it’s one of the Birds’ best chances to snag a confidence-boosting win.
Third, the last time these two played, on Oct. 7, 2016, Keene won, 41-28. The Birds haven’t scored more than 28 points in a game since then, so this could be an opportunity for them to close on an especially high note.