Lee: So I finally gain some familiarity with the classifications of the football teams within the Sun Journal’s coverage area towards the end of last season … and the MPA goes and changes just about everything. It might actually make things easier, since about half of the teams we cover are now in Class D.

Anyway, here is my take on the the impact of the classification movement. Tell me if I’ve got it all wrong.

The teams who dropped down are winners of the reclassification. Spruce Mountain and Mountain Valley should be more powerful in D South than they were in C South, and Poland should have more opportunities to win games. However, Wells also moved down, so they’ll have to contend with the defending Class C state champs.

Then Leavitt, normally a force in B South, should have an easier path in C South.

Right? Or am I way off?

Randy: Well, at least you didn’t get here until what is hopefully the end of the MPA’s deck shuffling. It’s been tough to keep up with the changes the last few years. Leavitt probably has to check with the MPA once a week to confirm it’s back in Class C. No one wants the yo-yo tricks to stop more than them.

Speaking of the Hornets, they didn’t exactly struggle in Class B until last year, when they had to put a bunch of freshmen and sophomores through a baptism by fire. They will start to see more success facing more schools their size this year, but they still have some strong teams to the south to go through, such as Cape Elizabeth and York. And Gardiner, an old nemesis from the Class B East days of a decade ago, is back on the schedule. 

Class D South, now that’s going to be fun. No one can argue with Wells, a traditionally strong program that dominated Class C last year, being the preseason favorite, regardless of their roster turnover. Mountain Valley made great strides in Pat Moody’s first year, and the Falcons seem to have some of their swagger back.  

Spruce Mountain and Poland are going to find D South to their liking, too (and don’t sleep on Madison). But not because it’s going to be any easier than C was. Rest assured, the incumbents, particularly Winthrop/Monmouth, Lisbon, Oak Hill and Dirigo, have their new rivals circled on the schedule. More than a few coaches and players told me they can’t wait to show those schools how grueling a D South season is. It’s the next black-and-blue division.

Let me ask you, being from “away:” How much of a problem do you think competitive balance has been here, and do you think this retooling will elevate the overall quality of games and play?

Lee: Competitive balance in high school football seems difficult to achieve in 2017. Some schools have a lot more money being pumped into their football programs, while others simply don’t. That being said, the competition was balanced compared to what I was accustomed. I only remember covering two regular-season blowouts last season, and also saw a bunch of tight, duel-to-the-finish games. I usually came away excited by what I witnessed (though that might have something to do with all the 0-0 soccer draws I was forced to experience).

Class D South was a nice little conference last year. Lisbon and Winthrop/Monmouth were clearly the top two teams, but Oak Hill and Dirigo weren’t pushovers, and those two teams were tested by some of the teams below them. The difference between the top and the bottom was large, but the tiers were competitive with the nearest tiers. Teams like Wells and Madison might upset that. Then again, I might be guilty of underestimating the traditional D South teams, who are probably relishing the idea of being not-so-welcoming to the new teams on the block.

And we haven’t even talked about Class E yet.

Randy: Here’s a question: If Class E doesn’t exist in five or six years will it be because the MPA succeeded in giving programs a boost back into competitive Class A-D football or because those programs couldn’t get enough kids excited about football and folded? I think it will help that these kids will be playing competitive varsity games on a more consistent basis. Whether that is enough to keep them coming out remains to be seen.

The ironic thing about the efforts to improve competitive balance is the class that has seen some of the most lopsided scores, Class A, hasn’t changed. I don’t know about A South, but in A North there is hope that the teams north of Windham will be more competitive with Portland, Cheverus and Windham this year. Whether they can continue making progress in the coming years remains to be seen.

The bottom line, though, is football should be a lot more fun for everybody, including the fans. 

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