8-man football preview: Telstar QB Will Doyle wants to graduate with championship under his belt

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Sep. 1—Telstar starting quarterback Will Doyle isn't sure where he will be playing on defense this season.

"Whatever we tell him to," Rebels coach Tim O'Connor said. "He is a really stout kid. He played middle linebacker. He can play cornerback. He plays safety. Those are three defensive positions that he would probably play."

Doyle, who led the Rebels to a 7-0 regular-season finish as a junior in 2021, is the team's utility man on defense. He can play several defensive positions.

He doesn't mind the added responsibility of going both ways for his Rebels.

"They run me ragged at practice, so I am usually good for the games," he said. "It really helps the team out. They need me at safety, linebacker — I am happy to fill that role just to help the team out."

While his defensive position is a mystery — or a game-to-game strategy — his place in the offense is the same as hit has been since he began throwing the pigskin around when he was a sixth-grader.

O'Connor has coached Doyle through the years and helped him grown in the quarterback position.

"(Doyle) is kind of built into that role," O'Connor said, "and the reason why is, we had another quarterback graduate a couple of years ago, so (Will) was our quarterback and he was aspiring to that role."

The laid-back QB and co-captain has learned to keep the pressure at bay even in the pocket.

"I try to not let it get to me," Doyle said. "I try to make these boys better and lead them as best I can. Having them back me up, too, is always great. The pocket is where I want to be."

"He is very even keel," O'Connor said. "He doesn't like get all wound up ... but he is pretty even-keeled about stuff."

O'Connor said that in addition to that poise, Doyle has a sharp eye on offense.

"He has a good read on defenses," O'Connor said. "He can run. He can pass. Off the top of my head, I think he was involved in more than 24 touchdowns — ran them or threw them. My team only allowed 24 points scored against (us) in the regular season."

O'Connor said Doyle is a smart athlete, overall, and has the ability not only to lead, but also to pass on his knowledge to the other Telstar players.

"Even on defense, he is an awesome tackler," O'Connor said. "He is just an all-around good kid, too. He is very inquisitive. He wants to do well. He is one of our captains, so he is a good leader. He just has a lot of very good qualities.

"Every night when we do warm-ups, he tells everybody what we are up to. If somebody doesn't know a pass pattern or where they are supposed to be in the lineup, he knows. He studied the playbook. He knows it all. He is helpful to all of his players."

Last year, Telstar's stellar regular season was derailed in the 8-man Small School postseason.

"The first round of the playoffs, we were to play Traip (Academy)," O'Connor said. "They opted out, and during that time we got COVID-19 on our team — and the first round of the playoffs we played Maranacook, and that was the first loss of the whole season."

Maranacook, which Telstar defeated 14-12 in the regular season, went on to win the regional title and reach the state final, and came within seconds of winning the state title, falling to Dexter on a last-second touchdown pass.

Doyle said that while the departure of some key players will make duplicating the success of the 2021 season a challenge, there also are a number of important veterans returning this year.

"So we know what we want to do," Doyle said. "We want that state championship. We have to work hard for it. I think we are all pretty well to go for it. I think we have a great team and the coaching staff is even better. We've got an overall good team."

O'Connor also has high hopes for the Rebels, who started playing 8-man football the first season it was offered in 2019, and said there are a handful of newcomers ready to help ease the loss of the six players who graduated.

"There are some kids in the freshman class who are going to help us out," O'Connor said. "We also have a couple of other kids who came out. We have a good crop of kids. We have 26 kids. We are a small school. We are at 180, 190 kids, and we have a good number out for football."