Randy: I’m excited to be heading down to Wells Friday night to watch two unbeaten teams, Wells and Lisbon, slug it out in a big Class D South game, It’s the kind of matchup that has me thinking about the way high school football has evolved here in Maine and whether it’s for the better.

Wells vs. Lisbon is a throwback to the way just about everybody in Maine used to play — smashmouth, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust power football. Oh, you’d run into an occasional Mt. Blue Cougar Gun-style offense, but 20 years ago, this was the dominant style. It was so ugly it was beautiful.

Over the last decade, the spread offense has changed the look of high school football, and I have mixed feelings about it. 

First of all, let’s make clear, you can win with either style. I’m just speaking as a football fan here. And spread offenses have plenty of features to appeal to the average football fan. It gets great athletes in space to do their thing, and it generally, as a result, produces more crowd-pleasing big plays. Games featuring two consistently well-executed spread offenses can be a thrilling roller-coaster ride. I’m sure anyone who witnessed last week’s 56-54 Biddeford win over Skowhegan is still trying to recover, especially both teams’ defensive coaches.

But that is the exception rather than the norm with high school kids. When it comes to execution, spread offenses are more fickle, and when the execution is poor, it’s three-and-out with no end in sight. At least with smashmouth football, a three-and-out takes more than 22 seconds off the game clock.

Maybe it’s just a backwards Mainer thing, but I’ll take whatever Lisbon-Wells turns into over what Skowhegan-Biddeford was any day.

Lee: I understand where you’re coming from. I used to love any college team that ran some form of the option in the 1990s. And I still get amped up about a defensive dogfight.

I do appreciate a three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust, but, man, too often I’ve seen offenses that are more like one-yard-and-a-face-full-of-mud. There’s no hope in that. A semblance of a pass game brings hope. This world needs hope, Randy.

The passing game also adds variety, aka the spice of life.

Take Edward Little, for example. The Red Eddies’ passing game isn’t nearly as potent as it was last year, but quarterback Grant Hartley still has a cannon and the receivers can still do some big things. I get excited to see Edward Little’s games because I don’t know what to expect.

Maybe there are two types of people in this world, those who appreciate variety and the unexpected, and those who favor brute force and execution.

Randy: Hey, hey. Next you’ll be labeling me a fascist.

I agree, bad smashmouth football isn’t anything to write home about. And I can understand the football demographic reasons behind the shift to passing. Good linemen are harder to find, plus that’s the way just about all kids want to play since it’s all they see these days.

It’s not about being tougher or more brutish. OK, maybe it is. But just watch the celebrations when a team scores a touchdown on a pass vs. when it pounds one in. Everybody celebrates when they run one in. When they pass, the linemen don’t bother going downfield to join the celebration. 

To paraphrase Crash Davis in Bull Durham — Run the ball! It’s more democratic.

Lee: Those lineman are all celebrating the passing touchdown in their heads the fact that they got off the field several yards earlier than they would have under a smashmouth regime.

I will say this: most of the high school teams I’ve seen are better suited for a smashmouth team because few have a quarterback who can throw well enough for the spread to be effective.

And, as our overlord Justin Pelletier pointed out, whichever style of football a team chooses, pass- or run-oriented, will be hated by its fans.

Anyway, enjoy that Lisbon-Wells game. I hope it lives up to your football sensibilities.


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