Basketball players

Championship football momentum takes Foxcroft basketball players to an unbeaten start

The Foxcroft Academy football team left the artificial turf at Cameron Stadium in Bangor just a month ago as the undefeated and newly crowned State Class D football champion.

Eight of those players have since shifted their athletic focus back to basketball, and they still haven’t lost.

Foxcroft, looking for its first winning regular season since 2010, is 3-0 entering Tuesday night’s game at Dover-Foxcroft against 3-0 Orono in a battle of two of five undefeated teams left in Class B North with Ellsworth, Presque Isle and Winslow.

The ponies do not appear to be affected by the move indoors after a long, rough season on the grill that began before Labor Day and continued until the edge of Thanksgiving.

“We know they’re two completely different sports when it comes to the physical demands, the level of exertion, the way you run, sprint, cut, it’s all different,” said the basketball head coach. Third-grade Foxcroft ball, Toby Nelson.

“In football you only do 5-8 second bursts, whereas in basketball you might have to go up and down and up and down on the pitch, so it’s a little different. But it’s just a different band playing hard all the time, not just for themselves but for each other. I don’t think I’ve been with a group of guys where the team concept is like that right now.

Foxcroft’s roster consists of just three seniors, including guards Gideon Topolski and Austin Seavey, the football’s starting quarterback and a Fitzpatrick Trophy semi-finalist, symbolic of Maine’s best senior player in the sport.

Other football veterans are juniors Caden Crocker and Cameron Chase and sophomores Jackson Smith, Wyatt Rayfield, Jaydon Richard and Devin Henderson, all of whom helped their school get off to a quick start on the basketball court.

“They understand what it takes to win,” said Nelson. “They understand that it takes hard work and dedication and there is more to a game than just scoring goals. There is dirty work that needs to be done and they are doing it right now.

The other three squad members played for a Foxcroft football team that went 8-3-2 this fall, including Filip Brkic, a 6-foot-3 Croatian senior who is Foxcroft’s top scorer with 23.0 points per game and 5.5 rebounds, 2.87 assists and 1.55 steals per outing.

“He’s a goalscorer, but he has the mentality that if he’s driving in the lane and getting traffic he’s looking for the open guy,” said Nelson. “He can distribute, he can bounce, he can shoot, and he’s been a great presence for the younger kids.”

Junior forward Adam Connor and second-year guard Josh Cornett round out the Ponies’ football-turned-basketball players, with Cornett joining Brkic, Seavey, Richard and Crocker (11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) in the top five.

“I think the 3-0 record is a good start,” said Nelson. “We’re probably a little smoother and more defensive and things clicked a little faster than we expected, but I probably shouldn’t have felt that because their basketball IQ is very, very high.”

Nelson said the ponies’ success will depend on a defense that netted just 46.3 points per game in wins over Houlton, Central of Corinth and Washington Academy of East Machias.

“If we want to win games, it will have to be on defense this year,” he said. “We can score, but our defense has triggered a lot of what we’re doing.”

Foxcroft will be challenged by an Orono club with a similar defensive average, having allowed 45.7 points per game in wins over Maine Central Institute from Pittsfield, Hermon and Mount Desert Island from Bar Harbor.

“Right now we’re just trying to get better every day and make our teammates better every day,” said Nelson.