High school football

Murky four-class football proposal comes into focus

Under new guidelines, Camden Hills, Belfast, Mount View would be on move
By Mark Haskell | Dec 04, 2012

After years of deliberation, it appears the Maine Principals' Association's vision of a four-class system for high school football is coming into focus.

The MPA's football committee voted unanimously Nov. 28 to expand from three classes (A, B and C) to four classes (A, B, C and D).

Thus, the committee's final proposal will be sent to the MPA's classification committee, which will be discussed at the Monday, Dec. 10 meeting. The proposal would then have to go through the MPA's interscholastic management committee before final approval is given at the association's spring conference in March.

If all hurdles are cleared, the plan would be implemented in the upcoming 2013 season.

If the proposal passes as is, significant changes are abound for Midcoast schools.

Three of the four varsity high school football teams in the Midcoast would change classes, including Camden Hills and Belfast from Eastern Class B to Eastern Class C, along with Mount View of Thorndike from Eastern Class C to Eastern Class D.

Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston would remain in Eastern Class B.

Classes A, B and C East, along with A, B and C West will each have nine teams, while Class D East and West will be comprised of 11 teams.

School enrollments were the primary focus for each team being placed in each class, though some shuffling of region was necessary to align all four classes.

Oceanside's enrollment is 679, while Camden Hills is 635; Belfast, 580; and Mount View, 443. Those figures are based on enrollments from April 1, 2012.

With an odd number of teams in each region, each team likely will have a crossover game.

For example, Oceanside of Class B East could theoretically play Camden-Rockport of Class C East, while Belfast of Class C East could play Mount View of Class D West, to fill out their respective eight-game schedules.

Also likely would be an East school playing a West school of the same class.

At this point, however, none of this is part of the 2013 schedules.

Camden Hills, which went 1-7 last season in Class B after having gone winless the previous year, petitioned to be dropped to Class C, meaning the Windjammers will be ineligible for postseason play for the next two years.

"We want to be able to stay competitive," said Camden Hills athletic director Steve Alex. "There's no question this is where we need to be. No one wants to go out there and get thrashed every single Friday night or every single Saturday afternoon. I think this is a chance to play at the right level and see where we are with our football program."

The decision to play down was made by Alex, principal Nick Ithomitis and varsity football coach Steve Wadsworth.

"We needed [to do] it to keep this football team on track," said Alex. "Our numbers are kind of borderline."

Wadsworth agreed Class C is the best fit going forward for the Windjammers.

"We need to build the program up and Class B West or [Class B] East just wouldn't be fun for us in any way, shape or form," said Wadsworth. "I felt it would be program-suicide had we gone that route. As it is we would be the smallest school in terms of [number of] football players."

Ironically, many of the teams the Windjammers competed against in Class B East last year also made the move down to Class C East, including Nokomis of Newport (which also petitioned down), Belfast, Waterville, Madison/Carrabec, Mount Desert Island and Old Town.

Hermon and Winslow, the latter having lost 22-20 to Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft in the Class C championship game last month, round out the nine-team region.

Camden Hills' football program has only been in existence a few years, but did qualify for the Class B playoffs two years ago.

In Class B East, Oceanside unquestionably has the toughest draw in the new alignment, playing alongside Skowhegan, Messalonskee of Oakland, Cony of Augusta, Lawrence of Fairfield, Hampden, Mount Blue of Farmington, Brewer and Gardiner.

Other than Oceanside, all other teams in the newly-aligned Class B East made the playoffs, including Lawrence and Mount Blue, which played in the Class A and Class B state championship games, respectively, last month.

Mariner coach Woody Moore said he was under the impression that Oceanside was going to be put into Class B West, which would have been a "much more competitive" region.

However, the Mariners were moved back to Class B East in last-minute shuffling of teams by the committee.

"I'm not real happy with how it played out," said Moore.

Moore said had he and Oceanside High School athletic director Jim Leonard known the Mariners would be saddled in Class B East, they would have considered petitioning down to Class C East as well.

"I'm not saying it would have 100 percent changed my mind with what we would have done, but it certainly would have been something I would have spent a little more time considering," said Moore. "[Class] B East is like the SEC (college football's powerhouse Division I Southeastern Conference) and [Class] B West is like [college football's Division] I-AA."

Moore recalled a meeting with himself, Leonard and principal Tom Forti.

"When we looked at it, Jim and Tom had considered petitioning down and I said no," said Moore. "I looked at [Class] B West and what it was going to look like for next year and I felt we would have been just as competitive next year as we were this year. With a carrot [of potentially making the playoffs]."

Oceanside finished 3-5 last year, with its victories coming over Camden Hills and Nokomis, both of which petitioned down to Class C for next season, and Morse of Bath, which will be in Class B West.

Belfast, which has been a perennially strong Class B school over the years, having won three state crowns since 1996, was placed in Class C East, which was fine with Lion coach Chris Bartlett.

"I think this is going to be good for Maine high school football overall and that is the whole purpose for this," he said. "With schools enrollments changing so much and football being added on a steady basis in the state of Maine, I think something had to be done to even out the playing field and make the games and seasons competitive and I think this is going to do that."

Bartlett said he anticipates that many of the games in Class C East next season will be exciting to watch.

"I think across the state you are going to see a lot of exciting football being played every night," he said. "I think this is going to be good for Belfast and for the league as well. I am excited to see how it finally plays out."

Belfast went 4-4 last year and earned a berth to the Eastern Class B playoffs, splitting two postseason games.

Mount View finished with a 2-6 record in Eastern Class C last year and will move down to Eastern Class D with 10 of the other 11 competing teams from last year, Hermon being the exception.

Mount View athletic director Chuck Karter put it best.

"I just see it as the LTC [Little Ten Conference]," he said of the conference historically being part of Class C. "Call us what you want, but we're probably right where we should be right now. It doesn't affect us as much as it affects some of the other schools."

The following is the proposed breakdown:

Class A East — Lewiston, Bangor, Windham, Oxford Hills of South Paris, Edward Little of Auburn, Deering of Portland, Portland, Brunswick and Cheverus of Portland.

Class A West — Thornton Academy of Saco, Bonny Eagle of Standish, Sanford, Scarborough, Massabesic of Waterboro, Noble of North Berwick, South Portland, Gorham and Biddeford.

Class B East — Skowhegan, Messalonskee of Oakland, Cony of Augusta, Hampden, Mount Blue of Farmington, Lawrence of Fairfield, Brewer, Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston and Gardiner.

Class B West — Mount Ararat of Topsham, Falmouth, Marshwood of South Berwick, Kennebunk, Greely of Cumberland, Westbrook, Fryeburg Academy, Morse of Bath and York.

Class C East — Nokomis of Newport, Camden Hills of Rockport, Belfast, Waterville, Madison/Carrabec, Hermon, Mount Desert Island, Old Town and Winslow.

Class C West — Leavitt of Turner, Lake Region of Bridgton, Cape Elizabeth, Gray-New Gloucester, Spruce Mountain of Jay/Livermore Falls, Freeport, Poland, Wells and Mountain Valley of Rumford.

Class D East — Ellsworth/Sumner, Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft, John Bapst of Bangor, Mount View of Thorndike, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, Washington Academy of East Machias, Bucksport, Orono, Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Dexter and Stearns of Millinocket.

Class D West — Yarmouth, Oak Hill of Sabattus, Lisbon of Lisbon Falls, Maranacook of Readfield, Sacopee Valley of Cornish, Dirigo of DIxfield, Traip Academy of Kittery, Old Orchard Beach, Telstar of Bethel, Winthrop and Boothbay Region.

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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