ROCKPORT — The Camden Hills Regional High School junior varsity football team — and program as a whole — took a major step forward in 2022.

Led by coach Chris Christie — also the head coach of the varsity team — the Windjammers went 5-0 with victories over Yarmouth, Mount Ararat of Topsham, Ellsworth, Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor and Morse of Bath.

“It was just nice to finally have a jayvee team,” said Christie. “The numbers are good enough at Camden where we were finally able to take 23 athletes to a jayvee game. And I think that’s going to bode well for our program.”

Camden Hills, of course, was forced to cancel its varsity season in 2015 over safety concerns due to low participation numbers.

Since then, the Maine Principals’ Association has adopted an eight-man football league primarily to help programs with low numbers be able to compete as they work to improve those numbers. The Windjammers play in the eight-man, large school North Division.

Top to bottom, the Windjammers had 38 players in its program this fall, with anywhere from 21-23 of those players seeing time on the subvarsity team.

Junior varsity team members included Isaac Dutille, Hollis Schwalm, River Pinkham, Aidan Greeley, Reid Chester, Hunter Beveridge, Preston Rossiter, Vincent Mainella, Dustin Dodge, Jacob Greeley, Lucas Feener, Reilly Turner-Watts, Michael Rollins, Cayden Fowler, Matt Mitchell, Jacob Harrington, Henry Pixley, Justin Batty, Odin Pearson, Ian Hammond and Jedidiah Lill.

This season, the Windjammers earned the following wins: 56-12 over Yarmouth Clippers, 22-14 over Mount Ararat Eagles, 28-6 over Ellsworth Eagles, 35-6 over MDI Trojans and 38-30 over Morse Shipbuilders to end the campaign.

Christie said the win over Morse was significant as not only were the opponents unbeaten as they headed into the game, but the Windjammers put together a goal-line stand and stopped the Shipbuilders on four straight plays to secure the hard-fought victory.

And, not something that would have seemed possible just a few years ago.

“The jayvee schedule was kind of the missing piece,” he said. “Unless you’re just a high-level athlete, it’s really tough for a lot of the freshmen to come in and stay excited about football when they don’t necessarily get any playing time.”

Christie estimated Schwalm, the jayvee team’s freshman quarterback, scored “probably half of the team’s points” on the season and also swung up and helped the varsity earn a victory over Ellsworth when varsity signal caller William Haslam went down with an injury.

“He’s a tough one to tackle, has a great nose for finding open space but he’s also not afraid to sit in the pocket and make a throw,” said Christie of Schwalm.

Christie said Pinkham and Chester made great improvements on the gridiron as “they’re sophomores in the program and just starting to gain confidence and see their potential.”

Rollins, through his role as a special teams player on the junior varsity, also earned himself a spot as the varsity team’s starting center the final two games of the season after Avery Laite went down with an injury.

“He stepped in the last two games of the season and provided a consistent snap for us at center,” said Christie. “He’s a good example of a kid who got an opportunity at the jayvee level and, ultimately, made it onto the varsity team.”

The veteran coach said next year’s varsity team could have upwards of 15 seniors and “you can’t overlook what the middle school did this year [as] they went 6-1 or 7-1 at that level.”

“I like the way things have been going,” Christie said. “It was just fun to be able to go to jayvee games and watch some of these freshman and sophomores get legitimate playing time.”

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.