The health of high school football in Maine is measured the same way, to its detriment, as the economy.

Some programs are entrenched at the top of the heap. They’re impervious to recession, migration, even coaching and administration changes. Barring a zombie apocalypse, they will always have a surplus of player participation and fan support.

Others are the fly-by-night variety. They were quick start-ups with a meteoric rise in value. Then market conditions changed (players graduated, or competition improved) and bankruptcy ensued in a hurry. They’re existing, but not thriving.

Rounding out the pie graph are the unfortunate few whose business plan never got off the ground. They’re the gridiron equivalent of living paycheck-to-paycheck, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and eating Ramen noodles and macaroni-and-cheese for dinner. If they’re lucky.

Feel free to supply your own analogy here. Most of us have enough personal experience to get colorful.

There is no need to further stigmatize these programs by name. Anyone who follows the sport with even passing interest knows who they are and knows that they are endangered and need help.


Although one went public this past week when Camden Hills suspended the remainder of its season.

The Windjammers were 0-3 and had won only two games in four years. They already were playing two levels down, in Class D North, from their enrollment level, a concession to their status as a developmental program.

More about that adjective later.

Camden Hills had a new coach who installed a single-wing offense under the keep-it-simple principle. Simplicity is important — nay, essential — when your numbers are in the 20s and dipping as injury and disinterest creep in.

Already dwarfed in stature by their school’s soccer and basketball programs that are consistently great (Camden Hills futbol thrives in Class A, by comparison), the Windjammers struggled to gain a football foothold in a system that wasn’t really structured to put them on level terrain.

For that reason, alone. I’m not here to jab the ‘Jammers or add to the perception that they’re quitters. And they’re hardly the first fledgling program to be thrust into this situation.


Sacopee Valley forfeited individual games in 2010 and 2013 before letting out a collective sigh of resignation and retreating to the junior varsity level. Telstar forfeited a playoff game last October and is hanging on by a thread in Class D South, dressing the bare minimum of players each week.

Forfeits aren’t good for anybody involved with football, but neither are 50-0 and 60-0 routs, or 100-pound freshmen playing quarterback against 250-pound seniors. And those are the unintended consequences connected to the rapid expansion of this great game. We are putting youth into a situation that is ugly at best, unsafe at worst.

By “we,” I mean the grownups. Some played it in high school and desperately want their sons to have that opportunity. Others are just fans who appreciate the value of football and feel that it teaches indescribably valuable life lessons.

In a perfect world, it does, but the arrangement that’s in place right now is far from perfect. It’s brutally flawed and dangerous.

The Maine Principals’ Association has taken terrific steps, increasing the structure from three classes to four, instituting a running-clock mercy rule and allowing programs to give up playoff eligibility in order to play down in a more suitable division.

It still isn’t enough. We absolutely, positively, indisputably need to restore the developmental league that allowed neophyte teams to pick on opponents their own size 10 and 15 years ago. And no, we cannot afford to wait for the next two-year classification cycle of 2017-18.


Stock it with 8, 10, even 12 teams on a voluntary basis. Who should be in it, you ask? Simple test: If you wonder whether or not I’m thinking of your school, that means I probably am.

Give it a snappy name and institute a full playoff, complete with a Gold Ball that will represent a “real” state championship. Do whatever it will take to eliminate the adult-created stigma that such a league somehow constitutes less than varsity football, because that’s what prevents it.

Administrators acquiesce to parents who would rather see their team get its brains bashed than be labeled JV. Too often these are people who were heavily involved in starting an area youth or middle school program, so there is no wall of separation. They are unable to objectively see that high school varsity football is a completely different animal, one that requires greater infrastructure, much heftier numbers and a substantially larger playbook.

So they lose games, the kids lose interest, and we lose programs. The storage sheds that house their football equipment become empty storefronts.

In a state that already faces economic and geographical disadvantages that limit opportunities for our kids compared to other states, we can’t afford it. We must refuse to accept it.

Even if it means forfeiting convenience, and pride, it’s time to move the business of high school football forward.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is Follow him on Twitter @oaksie72 or like his fan page at

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