With the Fall Plan launched, the Mainers are excited concerning the return of highschool soccer
When conversation turned to football on Friday morning, Steve Vanidestine couldn’t resist smiling at the sport’s expected return this fall.
The release of the statewide high school football plans this week was another step towards normalcy for followers of a sport that was canceled because it was too risky amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Isn’t that what it feels like?” said Vanidestine, a former player and coach at Bangor High School and now the longtime sports administrator at his alma mater. “Thats what I feel. Fingers crossed.”
Much of the work on the 2021 schedules that was carried out prior to the 2020 season has been marginalized due to the risk categorization of football by state community sports guidelines followed by the Maine Principals’ Association.
But with these risk guidelines, which the state retired last month, schools are allowed to resume traditional soccer competition as long as the pandemic that could cause course reversal does not re-emerge.
“You look forward to the kids, you look forward to the coaches,” said Fred Lower, Hampden Academy’s sports administrator and chairman of the MPA’s football committee. “You just feel bad for the seniors last year who didn’t have the same opportunity. Last fall we made a suggestion and thought we could do it safely, but it didn’t turn out that way, so it’s nice that we’re back now. “
Bangor High School will open its Class A season on September 3rd or 4th in neighboring Brewer. Along with Deering of Portland, this is one of the Rams’ two Class B opponents, in addition to seven games against Class A opponents.
“I couldn’t be happier that the schedule was up,” said Vanidestine. “We’re at Brewer to start the season and we’re excited to be ready. I just hope the football is normal and we can go out and do it right. “
For the first time this fall, teams will be able to move from a specific class to a lower class by enrolling and remain eligible for the postseason game.
Hampden Academy is among those schools that hope to take advantage of this opportunity as they move from Grade B to Grade C.
“At C North, we fit into the sport of football,” Lower said. “If you look back and look at Hampden football over the past 15 or 20 years, they have had some competitive success playing against North Class C teams. … Hopefully this will help us build the numbers and be more competitive in the games. “
Hampden is supported in C North by Belfast, Hampden, Hermon, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, Nokomis of Newport, Oceanside of Rockland, Old Town and Winslow.
Three schools have left this division: John Bapst of Bangor to grade D and Waterville and Mount Desert Island to the eight player ranks.
Class D will consist of a nationwide division including Bucksport, Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft, Freeport, John Bapst, Lisbon-St. Dominic, Madison-Carrabec, Oak Hill of Wales, Poland and Winthrop-Monmouth. Each team will play eight games over nine weeks, with a bye game.
The most significant change compared to 2019 is the expansion of eight-player football from 10 schools to 26, with 12 in the large school class and 14 in the small school class.
New to eight-player football are the major schools of Camden Hills of Rockport, Cheverus of Portland, Lake Region of Naples, MDI, Morse of Bath, Spruce Mountain of Jay, Washington Academy of East Machias, and Waterville. The new candidates for the small school are Dexter, Dirigo of Dixfield, Houlton, Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Mt. Views of Thorndike, Rumford Mountain Valley, Orono and Stearns-Schenck.
Another 2021 priority is to offer full eight-game junior schedules to help programs gain depth. These efforts include replacing longer trips on college schedules with more localized JV competition.
Brewer, for example, faces long university road trips to Brunswick, Windham, Mt. Blau from Farmington and Falmouth-Greely. These opponents will be substituted for junior varsity games against nearby Bucksport, Hampden, Foxcroft Academy and Bangor.
“The JV schedule is just as important as the college schedule because a lot of cadres don’t know what the numbers are going to be because they didn’t have a season last year,” said Dave Utterback, Brewer School Department Sports Administrator and Chair of the Classification Committee MPA. “Some of these [varsity] Matchups were created because you’re more of a statewide model with many of them, and there were some JV matches that we had to revise to keep the interest of football in the local communities and regions.
“I don’t expect Windham to send their JV team to Doyle Field on a Monday.” [in Brewer]. It’s just unreasonable. “
Lower expects the football schedules to be revised annually as the teams keep shifting classifications.
“We understand that football is a different sport and the movement that is allowed in eight-team or back from eight-man to class D means that the teams will change from year to year.”