Let’s say you live on a street with eight other homeowners. Over the last five years, each has built an addition and paved the driveway leading to the newly christened two-car garage in which they park a showroom-spiffy Lexus.

You’re still patching up those pesky leaks in the roof and spending two hours every Saturday in the hot sun, scrubbing the telltale dirt off your 215,000 miles-old Mercury Topaz.

And you hate it. It almost makes you want to cheat on your taxes to narrow the gap.

High school football in Maine is like the little cul-de-sac off the beaten path that has evolved into high-rent suburbia. It is growing insanely. But not everywhere.

Two once-proud programs are fortunate to field a varsity team these days. In their fervor to save their endangered systems from extinction, the adults running the show in Old Town and Madison allegedly made a pair of recent decisions that unwittingly offered their kids – and ours – a lesson in priorities.

Old Town sank to 0-7 in Class B with another one-sided loss Friday night. The Coyotes, who are down to fewer available players that you’ll find in most marching bands, played the last two games without head coach Peter Kenny.

Kenny was dismissed from the job after admitting that he sent two academically ineligible players into a game against powerful Winslow last month. Those athletes were among 14 Old Town football players ineligible to suit up for the team’s first five games because they failed at least one class in the final ranking period of the 2005-06 school calendar.

The coach told the Bangor Daily News that injuries and player defections left him with only four approved substitutes for the Winslow game. “I think I got a bad deal,” Kenny said in that published report. “I bent the rule. I don’t feel like I broke it I made a choice that I felt was right. I played a couple of kids in a game that we lost 70-6.”

So Kenny decided that something so trifling as a rule requiring his players to earn straight D’s was too constricting. Look, I know a good, old-fashioned rump roasting doesn’t help anybody. I’ve paced the sidelines through plenty of routs in which the home team could have put up triple digits if not for the grace of God and fourth-string halfbacks.

Those games are uncomfortable for everyone involved. They still teach a better lesson, however, than whatever Kenny hoped to accomplish.

Old Town expects its athletes to pass every class. At most high schools, a football player should be able to achieve that bare minimum by showing up regularly, at least pretending to give a damn and asking for help if he needs it. Any school administration expecting less than that should be taken no more seriously than an NCAA Division I university that looks the other way when the president of the Young Libertarians club shows up to take a calculus exam for the star quarterback.

If the Coyotes’ short-handedness presented a safety issue, then Kenny should have forfeited the game. The Maine Principals’ Association might have imposed future penalties against Old Town for doing so, but in the long run that’s still a smaller price than teaching kids that rules were meant to be broken.

Speaking of safety issues and a lack of healthy bodies, a creative but perhaps unwise approach to a personnel problem has created a bigger problem in Madison.

Central Maine Newspapers reported this week that a Skowhegan attorney has filed a damage claim against SAD 59 on behalf of Anders Olafson, a Madison football player who underwent surgery after he was injured in a practice collision on Sept. 19.

The issue is who allegedly delivered the hit. Gregory Domareki says that his client was tackled by assistant coach Brian Luce. In the claim, Luce, a former college football player, is said to have been wearing a helmet and pads at the time of the incident.

Whatever the outcome, every other school should take notice: It is never acceptable for a full-grown adult to be decked out in full regalia and blocking or tackling high school kids. Whether or not your team has enough players for an 11-on-11 scrimmage is irrelevant. Find another way to simulate a game situation.

You wouldn’t consider bringing in junior high students to fill the empty spaces in your 4-4 defense, would you? Plugging a grown-up with a football pedigree into the equation isn’t any different. The same gap in physical and emotional maturity applies.

Football is intensely emotional, and it can be dangerous. Players and families deserve to have the men in charge think twice before making drastic decisions.

Even if it means their “house” will bring down the property value in their league for a season or two.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His e-mail is [email protected]


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