One football forfeit has begotten another.
Telstar, invited to the Class D West playoffs by virtue of a forfeit victory at Traip in the next-to-last week of the regular season, has elected to forgo Saturday’s scheduled regional quarterfinal game at top-seeded Lisbon.
The Greyhounds won’t play again until hosting the winner of Friday’s Winthrop at Old Orchard Beach contest on Saturday, Nov. 8.
“I don’t think anybody really understands, but I do because I’m here,” Telstar coach Tim O’ Connor said.
O’Connor said the stakeholders in Telstar’s program – coaches, players and parents – opted not to participate in the playoffs after a lengthy discussion that also involved Principal Ann Bell and Athletic Director Gail Wight.
Telstar lost 40-6 at Traip on Oct. 11. The decision was reversed four days later when Traip forfeited that victory, and two others, due to the use of an ineligible player.
“It was a decision based on numbers and safety,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t win a game. The only win we had was because of a forfeit. Lisbon said they would play and take it easy on us. But it’s playoff season. Those guys are hungry. There’s a big difference between our teams.”
The decision became public at the Campbell Conference all-star meeting.
“I haven’t really been able to run through it in my mind yet. Maybe I’ll think differently after I have time to put my thoughts together,” Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan said. “Winthrop and Old Orchard Beach are both playing good football right now, and one of those teams will be riding high when they play us.”
Telstar returned to varsity football four years ago after reviving a long-dormant program at the junior varsity level.
Although they showed incremental improvement on the field until this season — no wins in 2011, one in 2012, two and a playoff berth in 2013 — participation hasn’t grown substantially.
Due to a scheduling quirk after Sacopee Valley dropped its program to JV status this summer, the Rebels finished their regular season this past weekend with an exhibition against the Hawks.
“They’re just a JV team, and right now I would say we’re just a good JV team. That’s all we are. We won 33-6, and we had 20 kids for that game,” O’Connor said. “If you looked down my line, I had a tight end, a center and a right guard. The rest were just fill-ins, converted tight ends and split ends.”
Mynahan countered by saying he faced the same issues this season.
“I hear people talk about numbers, but most of the season I’ve been playing 17 kids. Most of my reserves are freshmen. The OOB game I used 13 total kids on defense,” Mynahan said. “I’ve moved a fullback to guard. You do what you’ve got to do. Unless you’re Oak Hill or Winthrop/Monmouth, I don’t think any of us have the players to be able afford any injuries.”
O’Connor suggested that the Campbell Conference allowed too many teams into the playoffs this season.
With nine teams left in Class C West after Sacopee’s withdrawal, the league opted to have the teams scheduled to play Sacopee (all except Oak Hill) play a seven-game schedule with a bye week. Some chose to face Sacopee in an exhibition. Others squared off with the Lincoln Academy club team.
Eight teams were invited to the playoffs. Traip, which officially went 0-7, was the only team left out.
“I think the coaches liked the idea of having an extra game. But football is different than basketball. When one plays eight in basketball, that’s probably a competitive game, or at least eight has won some games,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t win a single game other than by forfeit and we’re in the playoffs? Really? Maybe the league needs to look into that.”
Class A East, a division with eight teams, has a six-team playoff, with the top two seeds earning quarterfinal byes.
Lisbon now has an impromptu bye week. Mynahan’s major concern is keeping his players sharp and focused at practice, even without having a specific opponent for which to prepare.
“Monday we came in and worked hard, tried to get our legs under us and put Saturday on the back burner. It was mostly a conditioning practice,” Mynahan said. “Now I guess I might change my tactics a little bit. We might be doing a little more of that.”
Telstar defeated Traip and Sacopee to earn its playoff berth in 2013. The Rebels traveled to Winthrop/Monmouth and absorbed a 40-0 loss against the No. 1 seed.
“Last year we legitimately won two games and ended up in the playoffs,” O’Connor said. “And yes, maybe Winthrop handed us our (butt), but whatever. Our kids felt good about it. They don’t feel good about this.”
Mynahan expressed sympathy for Traip, Coach Ron Ross and his players. The Rangers defeated Maranacook, Boothbay and Traip on the field and were 3-2 before discovering that a reserve player was in his ninth semester of high school after transferring into the program.
“I think of a kid like (Traip star running back) Nate Henderson and how much I’m sure he would love to play one more game,” Mynahan said. “This really hasn’t been a very good end of the season for our conference.”