High school sports

MPA's new four-class football system affects Midcoast squads

Some class, region changes for Mariners, Windjammers, Lions, Mustangs
By Mark Haskell | Mar 30, 2013

Rockport — After four years of deliberation, the Maine Principals' Association has made official its four-class high school football system, set to begin at the start of the 2013 season.

For decades, high school football in Maine has been in a three-class system for the majority of its existence under MPA auspices, but with the increase of high school football teams across the state, the MPA decided at its annual conference March 28 at the Samoset Resort in Rockport to officially change to four classes.

The four classes will be A, B C and D, as it is for a handful of other high school sports in state. Seventy-eight teams will play high school football in Maine for the coming season.

Locally, the change means all four teams in Courier Publications' coverage area of Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln County are on the move.

Oceanside has made the move from Eastern Class B to Western Class B, a region that will encompass 11 teams from Gorham, Mount Ararat of Topsham, Falmouth, Marshwood of Eliot, Kennebunk, Greely of Cumberland, Westbrook, Fryeburg Academy, Morse of Bath and York.

The Mariners initially were to placed in Eastern Class B, arguably the toughest region in the state with reigning state Class B champion Mount Blue of Farmington and reigning Eastern Class A champion Lawrence of Fairfield in the fold.

Oceanside athletic director Jim Leonard appealed the decision as the Mariners were initially placed in Western Class B, but were shifted at the last minute to Eastern Class B.

Leonard planned to appeal to play in Eastern Class C had the Mariners not been moved back to Western Class B, a move that would have left Oceanside ineligible for the postseason for the next two years.

Leonard was pleased with the way the new alignment played out.

"It was inevitable," he said. "The committee's been working on this for a number of years [and] there was quite a bit of support statewide from coaches and athletic administrators. We knew this would happen eventually, and it has."

Leonard said it was unfortunate that a few of the Mariners' rivals, such as Camden Hills and Belfast, will "be left for dead" and not continued under the changes, but it proved to be for the greater good.

"I'm happy that we're in B West, not B East," said Leonard. "I appreciate the work that the people on this committee did. Understanding all the variables involved, this was an enormously complicated task."

Oceanside, which went 3-5 last year, is one of two teams in Western Class B that will not play crossover games this season, said Leonard. Oceanside is without a head coach after Woody Moore resigned earlier this month, but Leonard plans to fill that void in the near future.

Camden Hills has made the move from Eastern Class B to Eastern Class C, after asking to petition down a class to help its recently struggling program. Due to the move, the Windjammers will be ineligible for postseason play for the next two years.

Schools that petition to be placed in a lower class than assigned lose playoff eligibility for two seasons.

"I'm happy that we're playing with the competition we're playing with, but at the same time I wish we were playoff-eligible," said Camden Hills coach Steve Wadsworth. "I think it's where we belong as a program.

"We'd have been in over our head," he said. "That Class B East is a powerhouse. For us I think we're going to be able to win some games and build our program."

The Windjammers, who went 1-7 last fall, will compete against the likes of Nokomis of Newport (also petitioning down), Belfast, Waterville, Madison/Carrabec, Hermon, Mount Desert Island, Old Town, Winslow and Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft.

Belfast has made the move from Eastern Class B to Eastern Class C based on its enrollment numbers. The Lions have won five state Class B titles, the most recent coming in 2003, the the school enrollment, based on the number of other football schools in the state, warranted the Lions being dropped a class.

The Lions, who went 4-4 last year in the regular season and advanced to the Eastern Class B semifinals, will compete against the opponents such as Camden Hills, Nokomis, Waterville, Madison/Carrabec, Hermon, Mount Desert Island, Old Town, Winslow and Foxcroft Academy in Eastern Class C.

"I think it's a great thing for football in the state of Maine," said Belfast coach Chris Bartlett. "I think [people] will see more evenly-played games night in and night out across the state as far as competition goes."

Mount View has made the move from Eastern Class C to Eastern Class D based on its enrollment numbers.

The Mustangs, who finished 2-6 last year, will compete against Ellsworth/Sumner, John Bapst of Bangor, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, Washington Academy of East Machias, Bucksport, Orono, Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Dexter and Stearns of Millinockett.

Mount View athletic director Chuck Karter said the new alignment "doesn't influence our school all that much" as many of the other schools formerly in Eastern Class C dropped to Eastern Class D as well, leaving the Thorndike-based Mustangs with much of the same competition for next season.

"I guess I'm OK with it as it pertains to my school," Karter said.

The Mustangs are without a head coach after coach Jack Brady's contract was not renewed.

Football at the Class A and Class B levels under the MPA have been in effect since 1950, while Class C joined the fold one year later.

According to the MPA website, Class D football in Maine was in existence from 1957 to 1975, when it was discontinued for four years. It reemerged in 1979 and again discontinued in 1986.

However, high school football in Maine has been around longer than that, as evident by the fact the former Rockland District High School and Rockland High School had some semblance of football for more than 100 years.

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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