Oakes: You and I don’t always agree on social issues, boss man, but I know both of us have lamented the increasing stench of our “everybody gets a trophy” culture. Well, much as I love our local high school football scene and almost everything about it, I must reluctanctly admit that it is an agonizing example of the problem.

What has been the trend for as long as I’ve been around, and has only grown worse with the past two reclassifications, is that too many high school football teams make the playoffs. I’m aware of all the arguments in favor of such an arrangement. It allows teams to overcome injuries. It emphasizes improvement throughout the season and gives kids a reason to keep fighting. It provides the chance for those David-beats-Goliath upsets we all know and love.

Blah, blah, blah. Perhaps someone could make a compelling case for those positives if it were a more level playing field. Here in Maine, however, with painfully few exceptions, the regular season effectively separates haves from have-nots. Revisit the debacle of Telstar forfeiting its playoff game a year ago, if you dare. Winning one (ONE!) game by retroactive forfeit due to another team’s use of an ineligible player put the Rebels in the no-win situation of feeling compelled to make that decision.

And let’s be clear: None of the defenses mentioned above have anything to do with why we have an almost-open tournament in football. The real reason is nobody wants to work hard enough to come up with a nine-game schedule that involves crossover games and such. Plus, we would have adults wringing their hands over who has an unfair advantage with five home games, or what would be an equitable system for ranking teams with unbalanced schedules. Because that’s where we are as a human race. We prefer undeserved to the perception of unfair.

I’ve had coaches half-jokingly tell me this season after picking up their first or second win that, OK, now we’re in the playoffs and we can just focus on positioning ourselves in the bracket. Tell me that doesn’t make a mockery of the entire process. And it isn’t the coaches’ fault. They’re simply managing the situation placed in front of them.

There are some great games on the local schedule this week: Dirigo at Lisbon, Gray-New Gloucester at Spruce Mountain, Marshwood at Leavitt, Edward Little at Cheverus. Imagine the intensity if some of the teams could ill afford a second or third loss. As it stands now, they mean much less.


Pelletier: I can’t believe I am actually going to type this, but: Back in my day (which for the record is more recent than yours), there were no consolation playoff games that I can recall. And I do call them consolation games, for the lowest seed, that is. For the top seeds, it’s another week to worry about injuries to key players, injuries to key reserves, or injuries to injured players with injuries who are injuring the coaches’ psyches by potentially being injured.

See what I did there?

That said (isn’t there always another side?), and this doesn’t happen in every conference in every season, but this year we see it, particularly in Class B South: What if there are legitimate regional title contenders five or six deep in the conference? How do you reconcile that possibility? What’s your magic number, and what makes it less arbitrary than 6 of 7, or 8 of 12? Do you take four across the board, extend the regular season to 10 weeks and risk the possibility of repeat games in the same season in smaller conferences?

This topic begets so many more questions. Though I am sure you will, in classic Oaksiean style, have an answer for them all …

Oakes: Was that a Yogi Berra tribute?

Yes, I actually expected you to dig up the 2012 Class B East (North ? Upstate?) scenario where all the top seeds lost except Mt. Blue, which had to hold off a two-point conversion to win its quarterfinal game. I’ve never believed that the world be legislated according to exceptions or extreme cases.  


I’d say four is the magic number. Six means the top two teams are “rewarded” with a bye that they dont want. Eight means we’re all treated to a bunch of games that shouldn’t happen. At the risk of helping make your case, I don’t see injury risk as a reason for top teams not to play an extra game. We all can get injured crossing the street or slipping in the shower. The idea that weaker teams can get hurt and demoralized is more my concern.

So let’s play more crossover games. Throw them out and only use them as a tiebreaker in the standings, if you must. It’s better than a bye or a week’s worth of artificial 1 vs.  8 games. And I hear Houlton is lovely this time of year.

Pelletier: The last thing anyone wants to go through is another wholesale realignment, but if you are to make your scenario work, we’ll need to extend the regular season and make sure there are enough opponents to go around in each division. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And only because you brought up the great No. 8 and his penchant for wit and wisdom, we can end this by paraphrasing one of Berra’s attributed lines: “Nobody makes the playoffs anymore, they’re just too crowded.”

That’s about as close to an “agreement” with you as I can stand.

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