Major changes have been proposed in an effort to make Maine High School football more competitive and reduce one-sided games.
The plan, unveiled at a meeting of the Maine Principals Association’s football committee on Tuesday, will affect about 50 teams that play the traditional 11-man version of the game.
The schedules will be based on a ranking system that groups similar power programs and allows for more crossover games between teams in different enrollment classes.
“If you look back at the history of football in our state, it was a conference that set the schedule, and with the changing dynamics of football we realized that it didn’t work out,” said Fred Loire, chair of the football committee and athlete. Director of Hampden Academy. “There were multiple one-way games and the teams were going in different directions.”
Blowouts in high school football have been regular for many years. Last fall, about 30 percent of regular-season games were rated by 35 points or more. The average winning margin in all games was 25.84 points, consistent with the 2012-18 data.
I think it will be better than what we had, ”said Cape Elizabeth coach Shawn Green, whose team won five games by at least 45 points when it came to setting a 10-1 record and winning the Class C championship.
“The coaches and players on the wrong side are not enjoying it, but the people on the winning side are not enjoying it either,” Green said. “I think it allows us to compete with the best of these schedules.
The offer includes – for the first time – eight teams in Class A, the largest enrollment class, and a game against a New Hampshire school to end a regular season of nine games. In recent years, Class A teams have played two games against each of the other teams in the Division and against Class B opponents.
The goal is to eliminate any potential discrepancies in the schedule, either between the groups above and below Class A or between a Class A group and a much smaller program in Maine. Teams in Class A will meet New Hampshire opponents of similar strength.
There has never been a situation where we have allowed cross-state games to count towards standing, “said Mike Burnham, executive director of the Principals’ Association.
But Burnham supports this view. “Teams have beaten opponents outside the state for years,” he said. There are other states that have allowed their cross-state games to be counted in the standings, so I don’t think it’s unique, but it will be unique to us. ”
The annual business meeting scheduled for April 29 at Rockport will require approval of proposals from the general membership of the MPA. It is expected that the Class A teams will need to get approval from the MPA Management Committee before the April 29 meeting to plan games for the New Hampshire opponents. If the New Hampshire plan is not approved, the Class A teams will play an eight-game schedule with one bye week.
The exact schedule was not released on Tuesday. Instead, a grid of how to create schedules was forwarded to schools with 11-person teams.
For example, both Class A and Class D are eight-team leagues that will be divided into two levels using a ranking system based on the input given by the coaches. The highest-ranked team will play against three other teams at its level and the two lowest-ranked teams at its lowest level. Conversely, the lowest ranking team will play the three lower-tier teams and the top-tier C and D teams.
For the remaining eight games, the in-state schedule will be filled with crossover games against teams in other enrollment classes based on specific requests from individual schools for “must” and “preferred” opponents.
The schedule of other leagues will be made in the same way. Class B South, B North, and C North teams will be divided into three levels. Class C South, is a seven-team league that will have no level but will be ranked 1-7.
Lower said the coaches’ rankings will be updated annually. “We’ve gotten feedback from every single (11-man) coach,” he said. “The rankings come directly from the coaches.”
Portland coach Jason McLeod says getting input directly from coaches is important for the process.
McLeod said the coaches are “able to provide a first-hand view of a team’s predicted strength next year, so it’s a factor that needs to be weighed heavily in the process.”
“The goal is to create more balance in the conference game and create some natural geographical matchups. For us, we want to keep the bridge fight against South Portland, and we want to keep the best team in our conference. So Marsh is at the top of the ‘must’ list.
Over the past decade, various strategies have been attempted to reduce the number and severity of discrepancies in high school football. Class D was restored in 2013 after 27 years in an effort to help the small school. Reclassification based on enrollment was used, most recently after the 2018 season when the traditional Class A programs were transferred to Portland, Deering, Chevaras, South Portland, Windham, and Massabasic to Class B. Some of these schools – especially Massabasic and Deering – called for relief from the game. Class A Powerhouse Thornton Academy and Bonnie Eagle.
The MPA’s football committee made a pledge in early February to help create a more competitive regular-season schedule for the state’s 11-man program – rather than enrollment classification – based on program strength.
“I think people are excited that there is a concerted effort to at least try to move forward with a more competitive schedule,” said Cape Coach Green. “It remains to be seen whether this is perfect or not. But at least we are trying to do something new.”
Eight-man football was introduced in 2019, with schools struggling to keep their programs running to create more competitive games for them. Ten teams participated in the opening season of the eight-member football; In the fall, the league could expand to 27 teams. The teams are divided into large and small school sections on the basis of enrollment.
Dean Plante, athletic director and football coach at Old Orchard Beach High, said the eight-member league was working to create a more equitable schedule.
“We’re trying to get to a place where we have very few big vs small school games, and allowing for North vs South games means like Mount Ararat vs Morse,” Plante said.