NEWPORT, VT — The North Country Union Falcons are gearing up for their season opener this Friday, seeking to rebound from a tumultuous season marked by injuries and locker room challenges. Despite a strong start that saw them winning their first four games last year, the Falcons faced adversity that led to a downward spiral in their performance.

With a roster boasting over 15 seniors this year, the Falcons are determined to leave their mark in their final season. Cooper Wheeler, a senior running back, expressed their unwavering confidence: “We’re going to go all the way out. I’m feeling confident all the way, right to the chip. Right down in Rutland, I don’t even care who we go against.”

The Falcons burst out of the gate last season, achieving an impressive four-game winning streak. However, they soon learned the hard lesson that a season is a marathon, not a sprint. Watson Laffoon, the senior quarterback, reflected on the highs and lows: “Started strong and had a lot of energy. And we kind of dwindled out after tough losses.”

Hayden Boivin, the junior utility player, pointed out the pitfalls of getting ahead of themselves: “We were all talking about the championship game and almost looking too far and thinking we had instantly had a walk into the championship game.”

The turning point for the team came with their first loss to Bellows Falls. What followed was a series of defeats that led to their exclusion from the playoffs at the hands of Mount Anthony. Lonnie Wade, the 9th-year head coach of North Country Union High School, acknowledged the team’s difficulties: “Last year, we fell off towards the end. We had some difficulties for a variety of reasons. This year, it’s about working on being more mentally tough and preparing for adversity and at the same time, sticking together as a team.”

Injuries to key players played a significant role in the Falcons’ downfall. Wade noted: “A little bit of the injury bug bit us and we needed some younger guys to step into some situations.” However, this setback has fueled their determination to come back stronger this year, as Wheeler stated, “Having everybody gone and seeing our season fumbled has really motivated us to come back stronger this year.”

Now, with lessons learned and a renewed focus, the Falcons are ready to charge into the new season. Laffoon, returning starting quarterback, emphasized his growth: “You understand more obviously you play more football I see more defensive coverages; I know the playbook in and out.”

Wheeler’s ambitions are set high: “I want to go all the way! To win a championship, it would mean everything.” The team’s eagerness to face their rivals, Bellows Falls, is palpable. Boivin sees it as a defining moment: “I think it’s going to be the game of the season for us.”

As they face Bellows Falls, the Falcons are determined to showcase their progress. Laffoon declared, “I’m excited. I want to show them what we’re about this year.” Wheeler’s confidence was resolute: “They’re always a powerhouse and I think it will really show what we are in the rankings if we beat them. I know we will. That’s guaranteed!”

The Falcons will kick off their season this Friday against the Burlington/South Burlington Seawolves.